Neuroscience as the military’s new weapon


Doctors are not the only professionals excited about rapid advances in neuroscience. The military and the police are following advances closely, creating the possibility of ethical conflicts, according to a report released this week by the UK’s Royal Society.

Some of these are performance-enhancing applications – plugging brains into weapons systems to make soldiers more alert and perceptive; culling unsuitable prospects during recruitment; detecting targets; overcoming sleep deprivation and rehabilition.

Others are performance-degrading applications to harm opponents like chemical weapons, heat guns and brain scrambling. The Royal Society points out that “Neuroscientists have a responsibility to be aware from an early stage of their training that knowledge and technologies used for beneficial purposes can also be misused for harmful purposes.”

"As a scientist I dislike that someone might be hurt by my work. 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,” Vince Clark, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of New Mexico told The Guardian. "If I stop my work, the people who might be helped won't be helped. Almost any technology has a defence application."

Check out the full report here

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