by Hugh Gusterson
The science in question now is not physics, but neuroscience, and the question is whether we can control its militarization.
According to Jonathan Moreno's fascinating and frightening new book, Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense (Dana Press 2006), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been funding research in the following areas:
Mind-machine interfaces ("neural prosthetics") that will enable pilots and soldiers to control high-tech weapons by thought alone.
"Living robots" whose movements could be controlled via brain implants. This technology has already been tested successfully on "roborats" and could lead to animals remotely directed for mine clearance, or even to remotely controlled soldiers.
"Cognitive feedback helmets" that allow remote monitoring of soldiers' mental state.
MRI technologies ("brain fingerprinting") for use in interrogation or airport screening for terrorists. Quite apart from questions about their error rate, such technologies would raise the issue of whether involuntary brain scans violate the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Pulse weapons or other neurodisruptors that play havoc with enemy soldiers' thought processes.
"Neuroweapons" that use biological agents to excite the release of neurotoxins. (The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention bans the stockpiling of such weapons for offensive purposes, but not "defensive" research into their mechanisms of action.)
New drugs that would enable soldiers to go without sleep for days, to excise traumatic memories, to suppress fear, or to repress psychological inhibitions against killing.
Moreno's book is important since there has been little discussion about the ethical implications of such research, and the science is at an early enough stage that it might yet be redirected in response to public discussion.
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