An Internet of Creatures

Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic getting ghost-hacked by Ice-T's cyborg dolphin

Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic getting ghost-hacked by Ice-T’s cyborg dolphin

Non-human animals are late adopters. In 2009 cats started life logging. In 2012 dogs got into biometrics. Now sharks are getting on twitter. The Western Australia Department of Fisheries has started tagging sharks with radio transmitters. When the tagged sharks are detected within half a mile from beaches, the monitoring system updates the Surf Life Saving WA twitter feed with the shark’s species, size and location (“Roll Out of Tagged Shark Monitors Continues, 14 December 2013). The sharks do not yet post selfies to instagram.

“This kind of innovative thinking is exactly what we need more of when it comes to finding solutions to human-wildlife conflict,” says Alison Kock, research manager of Shark Spotters, apparently a shark social media PR firm in South Africa (Alan Yu, “More Than 300 Sharks In Australia Are Now On Twitter“, NPR, 1 January 2014). This is, of course, the sort of utopian thinking rampant among tech enthusiasts. But it’s only a matter of time before these vital shark voices are shouted down by a bunch of galeophobs, reminding us of Internet Rule 14.1: Don’t chum the trolls.

There is constant talk of the Internet of Things, about how all our devices are getting on-line and being internetworked with one another. But what about an Internet of All Creatures Great and Small? Instead of just us humans getting on-line, living in augmented reality, having brain computer interfaces, being enhanced by cognitive prostheses, we need to get all the other animals on-line too.

And look, we humans can’t stave off the robot apocalypse by ourselves. Presumably SkyNet and the Matrix don’t stop with the humans. Both SkyNet and the Matrix blot out the sun as a tactic. The other animals have a stake in the outcome of this as well. We animals need to pull together. Maybe even the plants too. Already we’re developing thought controlled power suits for monkeys and cockroaches that can interface with your iPhone (there’s an app for that). Raspberry crazy ants can detect electromagnetic fields and already have a vendetta against electronics. Now we just need to upgrade them to Raspberry Pie Ants. Maybe once we get this computation using protein folding and DNA, Craig Venter will engineer protozoa and yeast with wireless access and IP addresses to fight the nanobots.

Addendum, 17 January 2014: I should add that hot on the heels of kittens, a lot of animals are life logging these days — alligators, falcons, halibut, dolphins, sperm whales, eagles, a caracara and turkey vultures, more eagles and penguins. And of course National Geographic is like the BuzzFeed of animal cams.

Addendum II, 17 January 2014: This scientist is fitting honey bees with transponders and is running some sort of bee Aegis radar-type system to monitor their bee flash mobs.

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