In the city of Xichang, located in the southwestern Sichuan province, there is a massive, artificial intelligence-powered roach breeding farm that is producing more than six billion cockroaches per year.
The facility, which is described by the South China Morning Post as a multi-story building about the size of two sports fields, is being operated by Chengdu-based medicine maker Gooddoctor Pharmaceutical Group. Its existence raises a number of questions like, “Oh god, why?” and “Who asked for this monstrosity?”
Inside the breeding site, the environment is described as “warm, humid, and dark” all-year round. The layout is wide open, allowing the roaches to roam around freely, find food and water, and reproduce whenever and wherever the right mood strikes.
The insect sex pit is managed by what the South China Morning Post describes as a “smart manufacturing system” that is controlled primarily by algorithms. The system is in charge of analyzing more than 80 categories of data collected from throughout the facility. Everything from the temperature to the level of food consumption is monitored by AI, which is programmed to learn from historical data to determine the best conditions for peak roach fornication.
The billions of roaches that pass through the facility each year never get to see the light of day. From their birth inside the building until their death months or years later, they are locked within the walls of the moist coitus cabin.
Each and every one of the insects is eventually fed into machines and crushed up to be used in a “healing potion” manufactured by the pharmaceutical company responsible for the facility.
The potion—which is described as having a tea-like colour, a slightly sweet taste, and a fishy smell—sells for about $8 for two 100ml bottles. While it is used primarily as a fix for stomach issues, the medicine can be prescribed by doctors for just about anything.
South China Morning Post reported that nearly 40 million patients in China use the so-called potion. It’s been sold to more than 4,000 hospitals across the country and is handed out as a cure for everything from gastric troubles to respiratory problems, and as a fix for a slew of other diseases.
The Chinese government has touted the healing power of cockroaches for years now, going so far as to finance a number of nationwide studies designed to determine the health effects of the insects through laboratory work and clinical trials. Liu Yusheng, a professor at the Shandong Agricultural University and head of Shandong province’s Insect Association, told the Telegraph roaches “really are a miracle drug.”
While there may be some healing magic to squeeze out of the roaches, the spectre of the insects making out of the facility alive would have devastating effects on the community and environment. Professor Zhu Chaodong, the Institute of Zoology’s lead scientist in insect evolution studies at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, told the South China Morning Post that it would be a “catastrophe” if billions of cockroaches were suddenly released into the wild, either as a result of human error or natural disaster doing damage to the building.