What’s bug­ging you?


The World of Chinese - - Editor’s Letter - – HAN RUBO (韩儒博)

In Sichuan, the world’s largest cock­roach farm is at the fore­front of an un­likely nexus be­tween Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine (TCM) and Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence (AI).

Over 6 bil­lion Amer­i­can roaches, nearly 28,000 per square foot, are bred an­nu­ally in pitch-black hu­mid­ity on this vast farm. It’s pow­ered by an AI sys­tem that con­stantly mon­i­tors and ad­justs con­di­tions, such as tem­per­a­ture and food sup­ply, in or­der to per­fect growth rates and qual­ity.

The live­stock from this Creepshow colony are mostly des­tined to be the main in­gre­di­ent in a host of TCM prod­ucts, such as 50-RMB bot­tles of Kangfu Xinye, or “Re­cov­ery Po­tion,” a sweet, fish-fra­granced ther­a­peu­tic brew pro­duced by Chengdu’s Good Doc­tor Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Group. The crushed cock­roach con­coc­tion can help cure res­pi­ra­tory and gas­tric ail­ments, re­grow dam­aged tis­sues, and treat burns or in­flam­ma­tions, at least ac­cord­ing to na­tional TCM stud­ies.

But skep­ti­cism to­wards these nat­u­ral and highly prof­itable miracle cures is grow­ing, par­tic­u­larly among young and less cred­u­lous. Ex­posés on high-end TCM prod­ucts like Tibetan cater­pil­lar fun­gus, which boasts an ap­par­ent abil­ity to boost both life­span and libido, bear bile, and don­key gelatin have height­ened aware­ness of both their lack of ef­fi­cacy and the vast dam­age they wreak on the en­vi­ron­ment and ecosys­tem.

Mean­while, the roach farm poses a more im­me­di­ate

ex­is­ten­tial dan­ger to its sur­round­ings: Pro­fes­sor Zhu Chaodong, a lead sci­en­tist in in­sect evo­lu­tion stud­ies at the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences in Bei­jing, told the South China Morn­ing Post that a breach in the farm’s se­cu­rity would be “ter­ri­fy­ing” and a “catas­tro­phe” for the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment: “Mul­ti­ple lines of de­fense must be in place and work prop­erly to pre­vent the dis­as­ter of ac­ci­den­tal re­lease.”

Many users mean­while re­main un­aware of the po­tion’s sole raw in­gre­di­ent, say ex­perts, and would be re­volted to learn the truth (the Chi­nese elixir only lists the Latin name, Peri­plan­eta

amer­i­cana, on its pack­ag­ing). The robot-ruled roach in­dus­try is un­likely to be squashed overnight, though: the po­tion is worth over 4.5 bil­lion a year to the Chengdu farm alone. All hail our in­sect over­lords.

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