Neurowar of words

Wired Science covers a recent US military report on military threats from the latest developments in neuroscience as well as how brain research could be ‘weaponised’ to enhance soldiers’ capabilities or disable enemy fighters.

It’s a bit difficult to judge the quality of the report, as unlike the recent in-depth report from the JASON Pentagon advisory panel, they’re charging people to download it.

From the Wired summary, it seems to cover similar ground although is perhaps a little more wide-ranging and focuses on policy and foresight rather than the nuts and bolts of brain science.

It apparently covers four main areas: mind reading; cognitive enhancement; mind control and brain-machine interfaces. As you can probably tell from the list, there’s likely to be a fair amount of speculation going on there.

It’s also interesting that the US military are really promoting their ‘military neuroscience’ angle, which is not to say that it is not a research priority. Whole wings of military research are now devoted to ‘human research’, as illustrated by the extensive science portfolio of the US Army’s Research Lab.

Nevertheless, the discussions about drug-based enhancements have so far been largely reiterating what soldiers have already done for millennia – using drugs to reduce fatigue, increase confidence and cope with trauma.

Drugs have been used for soldiering as long as there have been wars and the low-tech still prevails – from the use of coca leaves by Inca warriors to the use of the khat by modern-day Sudanese militias.

If anyone does happen to stumble across an unrestricted copy of the report online, do let me know as it’d be great to be able to link to the original.

Link to Wired Science article ‘Uncle Sam Wants Your Brain’.
Link to online shop for report.

One Comment

  1. Posted August 15, 2008 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    The title led me to believe that military neuroscientists finally developed words that kill, but the article had no weaponized words in it. I guess “Sticks and stones…” still stands.


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