Watch Where You Poop — Scientists Want To Use Sewers To Narc On You


Everything we consume, our bodies eventually get rid of it. Scientists have long known how to figure out our bad habits from what we leave behind, which is generally used to keep us honest via drug tests and give them the chance to laugh at our never-ending supply of absurd excuses when we fail.

Now a new robot might take the narcing to a whole new level. Stat reports that a Boston-area company is testing out what it calls a “biobot.” Which is a nice way of saying “a robot forced to be a sewage sommelier,” specifically, in this case, looking for signs of opioid abuse:

Researchers, using wastewater-based epidemiology, would effectively [treat] sewage as a collective urine and stool sample, made available willingly or not by everyone who uses a toilet. And by looking for the specific molecules that are found when opioids pass through the human body, it would be possible to distinguish between drugs that are flushed down a toilet and those that were ingested.

Figuring out the exact scale of the opioid epidemic is indeed important, and this has upsides. Knowing the overall true scale of a public health problem is the first step to reducing it, and finding hidden public health dangers before they start killing people is a social good. But by the same token, this robot could, at least in theory, figure out the overall diet of a region, test for signs of non-illegal substances, and even look for the prevalence of certain medical conditions, which is a little freaky.

Of course, there’s also the question of putting one of these right where your toilet meets your city’s sewer system. While this robot can’t track individuals, and currently Biobot is only interested in public health epidemiology, basically once your spoor leaves your private property, anybody can do anything they want to it. So parking a robot right where your toilet lets out isn’t out of the question, legally speaking.

Fortunately, for now, this poor robot with the literal s*** job will only be punching a clock in Cary, NC. But if it catches on, and you’d rather keep your effluvia out of the mouths of robots, you might want to get familiar with the composting toilet.

(via Stat)