Interspecies project ideas

Here are some links that point in the general direction of what I’m interested in exploring.

Strange animal exploitation for medical use

  • The Viagra worm: In the early 1600s, Duke Gonzaga of Mantova, who was syphilitic and suffering from erectile dysfunction sent an apothecary to the New World in search of a miracle worm with viagra-like properties.
  • Helminthic therapy

Genetic experiments

Cross-species communication

  • Animal psychics (and others who exploit the longing to overcome the understanding gap for their own profit). Examples:,
  • The figure of the Extra-terrestrial and especially the difficulty in communicating with other species as depicted in Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, or Fiasco.
  • Interspecies friendship (which happens to be my favorite genre of youtube video)
  • BowLingual – a dog-to-human translation device.
  • Debates and uncertainties about cross-species communication, friendship, or empathy speak to the deepest solipsistic paranoia over the possibility of any kind of communication at all. Even among ourselves we can never be sure that we are reaching an understanding. On the other hand we might say that bridging the gap is not only possible but constant and it’s only the self-awareness of those communions that is perpetually out of reach.

Human law and animals:


  • The process by which new species emerge, or, how a species stops being able to reproduce with itself. I’m imagining a sci-fi future where new human speciation occurs as the inevitable result of rigid class division.

Also here’s an incredible quote from Plutarch on vegetarianism. I’m interested in the shift in perspective (from meal to corpse, or from “them” to “us”) that accompanies this rhetoric. 

You ask me upon what grounds Pythagoras abstained from feeding on the flesh of animals. I, for my part, marvel of what sort of feeling, mind, or reason, that man was possessed who was the first to pollute his mouth with gore, and to allow his lips to touch the flesh of a murdered being; who spread his table with the mangled forms of dead bodies, and claimed as his daily food what were but now beings endowed with movement, with perception, and with voice. How could his eyes endure the spectacle of the flayed and dismembered limbs? How could his sense of smell endure the horrid effluvium? How, I ask, was his taste not sickened by contact with festering wounds, with the pollution of corrupted blood and juices?

I’m not entirely sure what project will emerge out of all of this, but here are some ideas:

  • A parodic set of experiments or contraptions to militarize unlikely animals (unmanned domestic cat drones, surveillance pigeons etc.)
  • A stalinist show trial for bed bugs or other marginalized New York critters.


A Simulation of Something

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I’ve updated and elaborated my “eat/mate/die” simulation. In the previous version, creatures would eat food, mate, reproduce, and eventually die of starvation or old age. My new version has a number of new features, including social class, private property, farming, and an online mode that runs indefinitely.

You can see the new version at This version is seeded from code that’s running indefinitely on a node.js server. Multiple users can connect at the same and they should see the same thing.

You can also take a look at an “offline” version here: The offline version let’s you refresh the page to generate a new simulation.

The code is over on github.

How the world works

  • Each creature is born into a social class, “worker”, “owner” or “enforcer”.
  • Social classes are rigid and strictly enforced. Creatures cannot leave their class, nor can they mate with creatures in different classes.
  • Workers are gray. They farm the land and produce food (the green circles). They plant seeds along a predetermined path, generated by Perlin noise.
  • All the bright green food on the left side of the screen is owned by the owner class. Workers are not allowed to eat this food. The muddier food on the right side of the screen is up for grabs – anyone can eat it.
  • Enforcers are red. They enforce the law by protecting the property rights of owners. They hunt down and kill workers if they catch them eating food that belongs to the owners.
  • Owners are green. They hang around, mating, eating and producing art (art-making is not implemented yet).
  • When creatures are full they begin a mating dance and reproduce. The different social classes practice different mating dances.
  • The social class of children is inherited from the parents.
  • Each creature has a first name and a last name. The first names are chosen at random from a list of the most popular American baby names from 1880. The system generates last names by appending syllables of parents’ first names.
  • Most important events are logged and displayed on the right side of the screen.

Controlling the world

  • Mouse over the creatures to view their names, desires, ages and hunger levels, or cycle through them with the j and k keys.
  • Hit the space bar to zoom in and follow a creature.
  • The i key reveals info for all creatures.
  • Finally, and most importantly, use arrow keys to change the social class of the creature you’re inspecting.

Online and offline

I ported my original Processing code to javascript with p5js to allow the simulation to run in the browser. Then I split the code into a client and server application in node.js. Now the simulation runs indefinitely online with hosting from nodejitsu. When you connect to, the client downloads the current state of the simulation from the server, and then receives periodic updates. There are still some issues with syncing – you may notice the simulation “jumps” periodically as it’s re-synced.