Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization

First Edition

© 1975-1979, 2008 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization, First Edition, Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA, 1979; http://www.xenology.info/Xeno.htm


18.2  Bionic Weaponry

In an earlier chapter we discussed various principles of bionics. We examined some of the designs for mechanical bodies which might be utilized by intelligent biological entities. There is no need to cover this ground again here, except to briefly review the possibilities of bionics as weaponry.

Certainly the most widely discussed application of bionic technology is in the field of ESB research. ESB -- Electronic Stimulation of the Brain -- normally refers to the implantation of electrodes deep within a living brain. These electrodes are pulsed with minute quantities of electrical current in the milliamp range. This interferes with the normal processing of signals by the brain, resulting in altered behavioral patterns.

In animals other than man, a considerable amount of behavioral control has been achieved. Rats and cats are driven to engorge themselves with food under electrical stimulation, and starving cats have been induced to refrain from eating even though dishes piled high with food were placed before them.495 The diameter of the cats‘ pupils can, with suitable electrode implants, be controlled "as if they were the diaphragms of cameras."92 A small cat, upon receiving proper stimulation in the tectal area of its brain, willingly attacks a much larger animal. Moreover, it will continue to fight even when clearly outmatched by its adversary.92 Female monkeys have been induced to completely lose interest in their young,513 and highly aggressive rhesus "bosses" have been rendered docile under ESB.92 And Dr. Jose M.R. Delgado, one of the leading researchers in the field, dramatically demonstrated the power of ESB more than a decade ago by stopping a charging bull dead in its tracks at the touch of a button. The bull had been "wired" for remote control.484

We find that in animals, ESB techniques have been able to control, or at least alter, behaviors of eating, sleeping, aggression, play and sexual activity. But there are also reports of control over motor activity as well. Dr. Lawrence R. Pinneo and his team at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park implanted some thirteen electrodes in the brain stem at the back of a monkey’s head. Small portions of the animal’s motor cortex had been surgically disconnected for the experiment. Pinnec’s device, the Programmed Brain Stimulator, fired the electrodes in the proper sequences to evoke motor responses from the monkey. One programmed sequence, for example, permitted the animal to reach out with its paralyzed arm, grab a piece of food, and return this to its mouth. Another sequence enabled the monkey to reach around and scratch its back, a complicated series of arm and wrist motions. The motor cortex was mapped in more than 200 locations. The experimenters learned exactly which parts of the brain controlled wrist flexion, knee and hip twisting, and grasping movements.516 It would appear that full motor control is possible, at least in theory.

Applied to humans, ESB has been able to evoke pain and pleasure, fear, friendliness, and "cooperative attitudes in previously recalcitrant patients."513 Are there any limits to this research? Delgado, now chairman of the Medical School at the University of Madrid, sees fears of mass control of humans as "fantasies". "ESB may evoke well-organized behavior," he explains, "but it cannot change personal identity."484 He cites two examples to support this position.*

First, in all experiments performed to date, researchers have been unable to use ESB to stimulate a male monkey to attack its mate. That is, certain strong inhibitions seem very difficult to overcome. Second, when ESB is used to induce cats to fight one another, it is not a blind, wanton aggression. The attacker carefully sizes up its opponent, selects the best moment at which to strike, and so forth -- as in a real fight. It would appear that ESB can alter certain emotional states. What ESB seemingly can not do is alter the subject’s will, except insofar as will is ruled by emotion.

Whether or not alien technologies will find this a fundamental limitation is anyone’s guess. If their ESB technology is vastly superior to ours, they may be capable of surgically implanting electronic stimoceivers in human subjects. We already know that many primate motor functions can probably be remote-controlled, at least in theory, and certain emotional states as well. It remains to be seen whether ESB techniques can be extended to mental volitional states as well.

ESB is not the only bionic technology that could be employed by ETs. The state-of-the-art of robot building and prosthetic aids has already been examined. Here I wish only to call attention to the possibility of advanced machine warfare. For instance, the Russians have made no secret of the fact that they are researching the possibility of using disembodied cat brains as control units in air-to-air missiles. The possibility of keeping brains alive outside their bodies has been confirmed by Dr. Robert J. White of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Dr. White has succeeded in keeping several monkey brains alive in total isolation.92

But brains need not be disembodied to utilize machine technology. Possibilities include such devices as Hardiman (an artificial exoskeleton worn like a suit of armor), the CAM (Cybernetic Anthropomorphous Machine) electronic horse, the huge biped CAM pedipulator, and the proposed fifteen meter high maxipulator -- also a biped. These colossal mechanical "teleoperators" hydraulically multiply the user’s strength and stride by an order of magnitude or more. One is reminded of the giant machines used by the attacking Martians in H.G. Wells’ science fiction classic The War of the Worlds.

The invaders may not wish to risk their own bodies in warfare, even behind the relative safety of a Brobdingnagian automaton.2017 Dr. M.W. Thring, head of the Mechanical Engineering Department of Queen Mary College, University of London, believes that the military robot may soon be a practical enterprise even with limited human technology. In two decades, he claims, we may be able to mass produce robot infantrymen for as little as $10,000 apiece -- comparable to the cost of training and equipping a human soldier in a modern army. Such automata would easily out perform their biological counterparts, having greater durability, flexible energy requirements, and no lack of élan for suicide missions.92

There is a fair probability that if we are attacked by hostile ETs, it will be a battle fought exclusively by specialized war machines.2016


* Unnecessary if we implant direct neural taps to sensory and motor lines.


Last updated on 6 December 2008