Military Plans Cyborg Sharks

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) has taken another page from science fiction writer William Gibson’s book by creating a neural implant to enable engineers to remotely manipulate a shark’s brain signals. This would eventually allow them to control the animal’s movements and possibly decode their perceptions.

Given that sharks have senses that humans don’t have (like the ability to sense electromagnetic fields), it could open up some interesting uses.

The implant consists of multi-channel neural ensemble readers and stimulators, diverse controllers and sensors. In addition, the DARPA researchers want to use their setup to detect and decipher the neural patterns that correspond to shark activities like sensing an ocean current, a particular scent in the water or an electrical field. If they can succeed in these experiments, it might be possible to control a free-swimming shark; it could be trained to track enemy ships or submarines, or to detect underwater mines or cables.

In the abstract for their presentation to the 2006 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center summarized the implant in the following way:

NUWC is developing a fish tag whose goal is attaining behavior control of host animals via neural implants. This talk discusses a shark tag … intended for long-term open ocean field efforts investigating viability of animal behavior control and its utility for networked sensing and data acquisition. The tag is centered on a multi-channel neural ensemble reader, a processor to interpret the readings in real-time, and a multi-channel stimulator, intended for both micro and macro stimulation.
(From Autonomous Shark Tag with Neural Reading and Stimulation Capability for Open-ocean Experiments)”

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