How can we understand our world, if we have hardly a clue about the mini-worlds where planning for our future takes place? Just the other day, the Washington Post had one of the odder reports of the year. According to journalist Rick Weiss, demonstrators at protests in Washington DC and elsewhere have been independently reporting large "dragonflies" (with a bizarre "row of spheres, the size of small berries, attached along the tails") hovering near their rallies. ("’I’d never seen anything like it in my life,’ the Washington lawyer said. ‘They were large for dragonflies. I thought, is that mechanical, or is that alive?’")
Is this the micro-equivalent of UFO madness? Folie à Philip K. Dick? Are these actual dragonflies, which do look robotic, or advanced "spy drones" loosed by some unnamed agency in search of homeland-security troublemakers?
As a matter of fact, militarized insects have been on the Pentagon’s drawing boards for quite a while. Most recently, the British Times reported that the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was developing cyborg moths, implanted with computer chips while still in their cocoons, that might someday soon flutter into an al-Qaeda camp in Pakistan and beam back video and other information. (The Post’s Weiss quotes DARPA program manager Amit Lal as saying: "You might recall that Gandalf the friendly wizard in the recent classic ‘Lord of the Rings’ used a moth to call in air support…. [T]his science fiction vision is within the realm of reality.") And don’t forget those Pentagon-funded neural-implant experiments involving blue sharks in hopes that they might someday be turned into stealth spies of the oceans.
The first robobug, the "insectothopter," was developed by the CIA back in the 1970s. It "looked just like a dragonfly and contained a tiny gasoline engine to make the four wings flap," but it couldn’t handle the crosswinds. Three decades later, no agency will fess up to siccing robobugs on crowds of American demonstrators (as the Cleveland Indians sicced gnats on the Yankee’s Joba Chamberlain in a crucial recent playoff game). And some experts agree with Vice Admiral Joe Dyer, former head of the Naval Air Systems Command, who claims: "I’ll be seriously dead before that program deploys,"