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."