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Jcrowley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-20-07 10:41 AM
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DARPA- The Militarization of Neuroscience

The militarization of neuroscience

By Hugh Gusterson | 10 April 2007

We've seen this story before: The Pentagon takes an interest in a rapidly changing area of scientific knowledge, and the world is forever changed. And not for the better. During World War II, the scientific field was atomic physics...

<snip>

... 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:


* "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.

* 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.

* "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.

<snip>

http://www.thebulletin.org/columns/hugh-gusterson/20070...
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-20-07 10:45 AM
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1. Amphetamines are not exactly new.
Most of this stuff doesn't worry me much, it's not really new, just fancier and more expensive ways to do things we can do already. They don't know half as much as they pretend to either, a lot of it is meant to spread FUD ("Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt") among the enemies du jour.
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Kelly Rupert Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-20-07 11:16 AM
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2. None of this is particularly new or frightening.
Edited on Fri Apr-20-07 11:19 AM by Kelly Rupert
* Mind-machine interfaces ("neural prosthetics") that will enable pilots and soldiers to control high-tech weapons by thought alone.

A functional MMI would have some military application, yes. It would also have massive medical, technological, and industrial applications. Surgeries could be made quicker and safer; reaction time for drivers could be massively shrunk. Precise control of machinery is not necessarily a bad thing.

* "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.

Same as the above. This is like denouncing joysticks because they can be used to fly Predator drones.

* "Cognitive feedback helmets" that allow remote monitoring of soldiers' mental state.

Again, massive, massive medical applications. And in whose mind is "monitoring soldiers for abnormal mental states" a bad thing? You want to cut down on suicide and unprovoked massacres? Check soldiers' mental states.

* 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.

This is just laughable. MRI scans are utterly necessary for modern neuromedicine. And brain activity differs so greatly from person to person that it would have absolutely no legitimacy in a court of law. "Questions about their error rate," as the author says, utterly cancels out the "self-incrimination" argument.

* Pulse weapons or other neurodisruptors that play havoc with enemy soldiers' thought processes.

Vague. What are we referring to exactly here?

* "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.)

Research into mechanisms of action has valid military and medical purposes other than offensive-weapon stockpiling. A weapon must be understood before an antidote may be found.

* 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.

Amphetamines have existed for decades. Already 'go-pills' and 'no-go-pills' are common in the air force.

None of this is new or frightening. Certainly it isn't cause to go screaming one's head off about "a world where everyone is threatened by chemicalized soldiers and roboterrorists straight out of Blade Runner," as the author so calmly put it.
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Igel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-20-07 12:05 PM
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3. I like DARPA, on principle.
It does lots of quirky things and wastes gobs of money; some of what it tries to do I wouldn't approve of in practice. Frequently charges laid at DARPA's feet--like the "remote controlled soldiers" blip--are based on assuming highly unlikely outcomes are almost guaranteed.

I whole-heartedly approve of pursuing ideas, even if they're quirky; DARPA does a lot of scientific research nobody else would think of pursuing, and it often flops--but only "often", not always. A lot of things the military's done, just as with NASA, wind up with some seriously nifty civilian applications.
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BlooInBloo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-20-07 12:09 PM
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4. I certainly wouldn't expect them to be militarizing wild strawberries.
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