Home > Joshua Snow, Politics, Technology > Tech Gestalts 2: Assuming Direct Control

Tech Gestalts 2: Assuming Direct Control

For the second installment in this series, I’m going to take two things that can’t possibly be more different: hunting cats and jewelry. Unless you like making jewelry out of the bones of endangered beasts, because nothing says opulence like destroying entire ecosystems.

It’s not a real hunting cat: it’s the new version of the  Cheetah Drone. Formerly, it was known as the fastest legged machine ever built, at 18mph (29kph to our European friends).  Now it’s known as still faster than that. It beat the land speed of Usain Bolt (the fastest human alive) with an impressive 28.36mph (45.6kph).

While DARPA maintains that the Cheetah’s primary purpose is to rapidly negotiate difficult terrain in humanitarian missions, their article on September 5th also lists “defense missions”. We all know that’s code-word for “we heard you like predatory animals, so we’re going to put machine guns on your cheetah so it can shoot you while it mauls you.”

This thing is predicted to be tested in the field by the end of the year. I can’t decide if this will usher in a new era of automated infantry hardware that will undoubtedly get abused against some civilians somewhere, or just a cheesy Transformers/Thundercats hybrid cartoon that will ruin our children’s souls. It’s going to be bad regardless.

For the jewelry side, you have to take a peek at this:

That’s not what rich women will now get in return for faking orgasms; it’s the Orb, which is a cool name for a high-tech Bluetooth device. It’s actually kind of old news (it came out in 2010), but it’s worth bringing up again because somebody has GOT to get this thing working properly and on the market en masse. It’s too cool not to. As an earpiece, it’s small, sleek and futuristic, though I guess there’s no way to not look like you’re losing to techno-virus with an earpiece on. The unique aspect, though, is its ability to fold up into a discreet ring for the user’s finger.

Now I can ignore 10 phone calls at once, bwahaha

As a ring, “Orb provides high quality bone conduction audio”, has a “Flexible Organic Light Emitting Device (FOLED) screen to display caller ID, calendar reminders, and voice-to-text information”, and presumably an inherent weakness against the color yellow.

Green Lantern’s worst nightmare

In layman’s terms, it talks to you through your bones and can do all the shit that your smartphone is supposed to do.

Now, imagine that instead of a Bluetooth doohickey, you could turn make that ring into a Wi-Fi device. Grab a Cheetah bot (or an army of Cheetah bots, it all depends on your budget), throw in whatever kind of kooky wireless receiving stuff DARPA’s undoubtedly cooking up for them, and command your army of face-maulers while picking your nose. You might as well pick your nose, the ring’s got to be close to your mouth to receive voice commands anyway.

And I’m not just joking around about Wi-Fi cheetahs. The Cheetah is a concept robot, an attempt to prove that mankind can build fast quadrupedal robots that are worth a damn in more than flat terrain. It’s going to spawn little Spider-Bots, and Dog-Bots, and Mouse-Bots, and possibly micro Crab-Bots. Because people getting crabs is hilarious. If you don’t think they’re going to jump on the opportunity to sell some of these for civilian use, you don’t understand evil very well. They could be used for police duty, helping the handicapped, fire rescue, household chores, and PETS THAT DON’T POOP.  What better way to keep all of your loyal robotic servants linked and under your control than with your Ring of Command, allowing you to issue commands like a 12th-level Wizard. A RoboWizard.

Now, the ring’s total range is currently 30 feet (10m). But that’s okay. That’s still enough range to command your horde of floor-scrubbers and beer-retrievers at home, even if it’s a little lacking for combat duty. With the growing popularity of Augmented Reality displays, we might even be approaching the day when you can link an Orb-like control device, a few drones, and your glasses together, enabling you to see through the eyes of any of your little buddies with the click of a button.

We all know what the military and Joe Schmoe are going to do with these things, but the police? That’s some scary business. Already the Internet has come alive with people accusing the Cheetah of being a “civil unrest” deterrent, and I’m inclined to agree. Just think how worse it would be if they could be commanded from the field or instantly taken over via A.R. displays, commanded in attack squads by men who are on the ground and know the situation. Because of their lack of built-in firearms, they wouldn’t technically be “weapons”, but at 28mph would you want pouncing on you? Didn’t think so. And it wouldn’t just be police or military departments; security companies are gonna want this setup, as are rich paranoids and animal control centers. Heck, possibly even dog-fighters.

As much as I laugh and joke through these articles, the truth is that the future is here and it’s looking like abusing SotA technology could make it nastier than we ever imagined when the 90s came to a halt.

So, toall the people who want to build ass-kicking machines with the groundwork I just described: instead, let’s build some house-cat-sized versions of the Cheetah and strap a pesticide sprayer to the face. Exterminators would love that shit.


Josh Snow is a skeptical transhumanist and some-time freelance writer. He really wants a robo-kitty, which he would then name “Goodbye Kitty” and paint in palette-reverse from that other Japanese cat. He would then post pictures of its escapades on Twitter @ArkangelWinter

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