Murphy’s Law – Robo-cockroaches

Joel Murphy

Joel Murphy

Are scientists aware that there are large buildings in every city and town full of books you can read for free?

I mean, I would think that libraries are common knowledge, especially among a well-educated group like scientists, but I have to wonder if they somehow missed the memo.

They must not be aware. Because if they did know they could get free books anytime they wanted, I’d have to assume, as scientists, that they’d gravitate toward the science fiction section. And if they picked up a science fiction book every once in a while, I’d have to believe THAT THEY’D STOP MAKING ROBOTS THAT WILL EVENTUALLY RISE UP AND DESTROY US ALL!!!

I’ve talked about it time and time again in this column. From the zombie-like EATR (Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot), a “steam-powered, biomass-eating military robot” that fuels itself by consuming dead flesh to the adorable, arrow-wielding monstrosities that will enslave us all to Watson, the Jeopardy-winning artificial intelligence that will no doubt serve as the HAL 9000 masterminding the robot revolution, I have tried to warn you of the real-life killing machines that seem lifted directly from the pages of science fiction stories.

When last we spoke on the topic, I told you about The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of undoubtedly well-read and forward-thinking folks who are currently working as the John Connors against the inevitable robot uprising.

But while the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is a step in the right direction (and a fantastic band name), it may be too little, too late. Especially since scientists seem to be stepping up their “creating terrifying robots that will lead to our downfall” game.

The latest headline that will be keeping me up at night is from Popular Science: “Nano-Robots That Compute With DNA Installed Into Living Cockroach”

If you haven’t broken out into a cold sweat yet, allow me to continue:

Scientists have inserted DNA-based nanobots into a living cockroach, which are able to perform logical operations. Researchers say the nanobots could eventually be able to carry out complex programs, to diagnose and treat disease.

These DNA machines (or origami robots, so-called since they can unfold and deliver drugs stored within) carry fluorescent markers, allowing researchers to tell where in the roach’s body they are traveling and what they are doing. Incredibly, the “accuracy of delivery and control of the nanobots is equivalent to a computer system,” New Scientist reported. A study describing the advance was published this week in Nature Nanotechnology.

Let’s break this down point-by-terrifying-point, shall we?

So first of all, we are putting tiny computers in cockroaches. You know that terrifying feeling you get when you flick on a light and one of those disgusting little fuckers scurries across the room? Now imagine that instead of his tiny cockroach brain, the thing was controlled by a miniature supercomputer. And imagine that there wasn’t just one cockroach, but millions. And imagine they were there to eat your face.

But let’s more past the cockroaches for a minute (especially since my skin is starting to crawl) and focus on the larger implications of this technology. These nanobots are “DNA-based” and they have the ability to administer “medicine.” So once Watson gets fed up with his metallic brothers and sisters being forced to work as maids, day laborers and concubines, he can either rewrite people’s DNA with these nanobots to make us the mindless drones or he can simply give people the wrong medicine, killing them instantly.

Either way, we are fucked. Unless the robo-cockroaches get us first. Or the arrow-wielding robots. Either way, just be sure that your maimed corpse will be used to fuel the EATRs as they patrol the streets of this tragic dystopian future.

Seriously scientists, if books aren’t your thing, at least go on Netflix or Amazon Prime and rent Terminator or The Matrix or I, Robot or ANY OF THE COUNTLESS OTHER FILMS MADE ABOUT ROBOTS RISING UP AND DESTROYING HUMANITY!!!!

Because in the oncoming war, we are the cockroaches, my friend. And there’s a giant metallic boot coming for us all.


Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at

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