Saturday, November 9, 2013

So: Cyborg Roaches Are a Thing

6,000 words into NaNoWriMo. What a failure I am so far.

Anyway, here's this thing about cockroaches that, since the BBC is talking about it, I'm assuming is true. The ethics of this are intriguing. On the one hand, if we were doing this to an animal like, say, a mouse or a dog, it would pretty clearly immediately register to me as "cruel." You can't freeze Fido and peel open his skull so you can see if you can make him bark on command.

On the other hand, most people think it is amusing to teach kids where to scratch a dog's belly to make it involuntarily kick. Which is nowhere near the same, but if you have a kid and a dog, totally do this cool thing.

So, back to cockroaches. Is the fact that a cockroach is an insect a big enough difference to make this ethically OK? What about the cost-benefit analysis? If cyborg roaches help us solve Alzheimer's, is that an acceptable ethical lapse [or are we all utilitarians here and say that it is not an ethical lapse at all? The needs of many humans outweigh the needs of cockroaches we'd all send to the roach motel anyway.]

I'm honestly not sure what the right answer is; we've dissected frogs and fetal pigs for science. But, those were already dead. I don't think we would approve of someone bringing in Babe alive and cutting into him just to show us the cardiovascular system. I definitely don't feel that "If we're cruel to roaches, then Auschwitz happens," is a valid complaint [both because it is a slippery slope and argument by Godwin.] But, desensitization to the suffering of other creatures is a real thing. And people are jerks.

Then, let's get to the part of marketing this to kids. This isn't an erector set or a LiteBrite. This toy involves hunting down a cockroach and willfully subjecting it to some pretty horrific things, or will the kits come pre-assembled? Which opens up a lot of other logistical quandaries.

I'm normally a proponent of crazy things for science, but I'm still not sure how I feel about cyborg roaches.



How much essence does the cockroach lose for this?

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