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Thu Apr 5, 2012, 08:27 AM

This Is Your Brain on the Department of Defense

http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/04/department-of-defense-neuroscience-bioethics-brains-law

Science and the military have historically made creepy bedfellows, with military curiosity about neuroscience leading the pack. Yet it's no secret that since the early 1950s, the US military has had a vested interest in harnessing cutting-edge developments in neuroscience to get a leg up on national defense (a la well-publicized failures like Project MK-ULTRA). In 2011, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon's research arm credited with, among other things, spearheading the invention of the internet, had a budget of over $240 million devoted to cognitive neuroscience research alone. From brain-scan-based lie detection to memory-erasure pills, some of the technologies are, at first glance, simply the stuff of sci-fi. But an essay published in the March issue of PLoS Biology tells a cautionary tale of high-tech neuroscience developments on the horizon that "could be deployed before sufficiently validated."

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The two authors, Michael Tennison and Jonathan Moreno, are no strangers to the broader implications of science; both are bioethicists, and Moreno, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has been a part of multiple government advisory bodies, including President Obama's bioethics commission. "They see me as an honest broker," says Moreno. "I worry about the ethical questions behind a lot of these technologies, I'm left-leaning, but I'm no pacifist—I have kids, and I think we do have to worry about national security."

A lot gets said about scientific research that's so-called "dual-use," e.g., its potential for good is matched or outmatched by its potential to do harm. Case in point: the recent H5N1 hubbub, where Dutch and American scientists made a potentially dangerous airborne strain of the already-dangerous bird flu virus, but only in the interest of "preventing a pandemic." Similarly, Moreno runs through recent developments in neuroscience, connecting them to their well-funded, though still highly speculative, DoD research goals—as well as the knotty legal and ethical questions these experimental technologies suggest. "Neuroscientists haven't had the atom bomb moment that Einstein and Oppenheimer had, they haven't even had the bird flu moment; but that time is fast-approaching," Moreno says. Here are some of the top neuroscience developments that Moreno, and DoD, is keeping an eye on—and why he thinks we should care.

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Reply This Is Your Brain on the Department of Defense (Original post)
xchrom Apr 2012 OP
GeorgeGist Apr 2012 #1

Response to xchrom (Original post)

Thu Apr 5, 2012, 10:21 AM

1. Thanks for the tip.

While some scientists dispute the accuracy of the scans (Greely pointed out that certain obscure countermeasures, like purposely wiggling your toes, have been shown to throw the brain activation patterns way off), there is a clear defense interest in developing "indisputable" lie detection.



K and R.

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