Fish mentality: If The Rock told you to eat flies, would you buy my NFT?

This week's column coming to you via hologram. Or a spaceship


Something for the Weekend How can you tell if a fish is upset? It doesn't grind its pharyngeal teeth, clench its fins or utter moist oaths. And it's not as if you can see tears streaming down its face.

Well, there's an app for that. OK, not an app, at least not yet, but lab boffins at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a wireless device to not just track where a fish is swimming but also monitor its health and behavior. Miniaturized to about the size of a pen cap, this biotelemetry tag senses everything from heartbeat to tail beat and ambient environmental conditions such as water pressure and (oh yes) magnetic field.

The information gathered by the 2.4g device should help scientists determine what stresses a fish out – climate change, human infrastructure projects, that kind of thing. For example, legislation in many countries insists that migratory species such as salmon are not made too sulky by the introduction of hydropower facilities to want to swim upstream for a bit of piscine nookie.

They're calling it "Lab-on-a-fish." It's essentially a fishy Fitbit.

I wonder if I might borrow one as I think I have upset my neighbor's fish. The neighbor asked me to pop round twice a day while she was away to add some feed, keep its water clean, and check for those subtle telltale signs such as floating upside down immobile at the surface.

I felt sorry for the little fish in its bare tank and so I installed some aquatic furniture that I bought from a pet shop.

I thought a sunken castle, plastic seaweed and a bubbling treasure chest would cheer it up. Instead, the fish is acting kind of… grumpy. I suspect it doesn't like the sudden gentrification of its environment. Perhaps I should have prepared it for the change by introducing a miniature skip and some landscape gardening tools before the subaqueous yuppies moved in.

Lab-on-a-fish already counts tail-flicks (is 10,000 a day the target?) but to be a real fish fitness tracker it should be developed further to record what the fish is eating.

Not that I have ever seen an obese fish reluctant to go on the scales, but what animals feed on can change their behavior. Research by the Milner Centre of Evolution even suggests vegetarian birds are more sociable than insect-eaters.

It's completely the opposite with humans: veggies and vegans are fussy, difficult, and lonely buggers who never get invited to dinner. I should know. Meat-eaters, by contrast, are gregarious and easy to please. So much so that they will eat any old shit if everyone else is eating it, according to yet more research.

The BI Norwegian Business School found that if a celebrity influencer such as Angelina Jolie or Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson endorsed energy bars made of crickets or mealworm burgers, carnivores would follow suit.

According to the study, men were most influenced by famous actors and athletes telling them to eat insects. Women were found to be even more responsive to actors saying it's OK to chomp on creepy-crawlies but totally put off by musicians saying the same thing. Now you know.

Me, if I'm low on protein, I eat some peanuts.

Could a future fish fitness tracker gather enough behavioral data one day to determine whether fish would respond to similar peer pressure? I was going to say that it would be hilarious to imagine what an aquatic-life influencer would look like, but I think I have seen plenty on TikTok already.

Talking of desperate social media marketing and influencers with the mental capacity of a tadpole, you are reading this in the middle of the French presidential election. And it's turning out to be a tech-tastic media blast as the 12 candidates (yes, 12) try to convince voters that they'd metaphorically adore eating dung beetles for breakfast.

The most notable media coverage of the election in terms of IT ignorance so far has been that of left-wing firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon's simultaneous appearance as a "hologram" across multiple city venues across France.

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"Hologram" – yeah, right. As you have already guessed by looking at the footage above, it's not a hologram, it's the classic Pepper's Ghost illusion in which a moving image is mirrored onto a sheet of glass on stage. It's a nice trick but apart from the digital capture and projection, the technology dates back to 1862.

You'd know if I'd been at one of the "hologram" speeches this week – I'd be the one shouting from the back: "Viva Las Vegas! Do Hound Dog!"

Still, if spittle-spraying Mélenchon's team are calling it a "hologram," everyone follows suit and calls it a "hologram" even when they know it is not. As in "artificial intelligence" (ie, it's not intelligent), "cryptocurrency" (not a currency) and "smart lightbulb" (do you really need me to explain that one?)

More surprising is how everyone missed a trick by not claiming that Melvis was appearing on multiple stages around the country via the metaverse. As a Forrester report pointed out, business decision-makers are running around talking about the metaverse as if it actually existed – which of course it doesn't. But hey, don't let that stop you!

In fact, if you think there is a metaverse and that French presidential candidates are holograms, I have an NFT you might be interested in.

Luxury gift designer Goldgenie is selling NFTs that come with a diamond-encrusted 24k gold iPhone Max 13. The phone is a real phone, albeit with more than a hint of fugly Saddam/Trump chic, but I can't describe what the NFT is for reasons you can work out for yourself. It's selling for $250,000. Don't all rush at once. If only The Rock could demonstrate that it's OK to eat one, eh?

Ah, excuse me, my watch has reminded me it's time to feed the fish. He may be grumpy but he has me well-trained.

***

Before I go, allow me to add a footnote to say that this week's column marks 10 years of SFTW. A whole decade of this, just imagine! Yes, I know, it seems longer. And it began here. Every column is still on The Reg for your reading displeasure, so as hologrammatic AI Angeline Jolie says, eat them up now.

Thanks for staying faithful, friends.

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Alistair Dabbs
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He reads your comments every week. That is, his hologram reads them. More at Autosave is for Wimps and @alidabbs.

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