WARning to Neuroscientists
Britain’s Royal Society recently released a report on the “possible benefits of neuroscience to military and law enforcement”. Areas of concentration are military training, performance enhancement, neuropharmacology or “Botox for the Brain” (to combat fatigue or erase painful memories) and using fMRI for screening or recruiting and other types of task training. This isn’t new and it’s proposed in a positive light to improve military efficiency which translates into a big budget win.
But in nearly the same breath of talking about neural processing research to help facilitate rehabilitation to wounded soldiers (i.e., trauma or prosthetic limbs), using these applications conversely against the enemy is ever so briefly mentioned. An example of this would be development of neuro-weaponry like chemical or biological weapons, “anesthetic agents” that would modify or incapacitate the central nervous system of the enemy or that could be used in riot control. The report also mentions “the use of devices known as brain-machine interfaces (BMIs), which connects soldiers’ brains directly to military technology, such as drone aircraft and weapons.” [via]
So whats the big deal?
“As a scientist I dislike that someone might be hurt by my work,” Vince Clark, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of New Mexico, told the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. “I want to reduce suffering, to make the world a better place, but there are people in the world with different intentions, and I don’t know how to deal with that.” [via]
To which the Royal Society says, buck up (basically), stressing that researchers should just “be aware of the potential uses that your work may put to in the future.” [via]
Prof. Rod Flower, one of the members who chaired the report, suggests these investigations are similar to how GPS was first used by the military and now we are each basically a walking GPS, via cars and cell phones. The idea that some of the applications above that governments are looking into might one day be so common place is very remarkable, part inevitable and possibly, deplorable.
The full report with recommendations – here.