Does the U.S. Need a Neurowarfare Strategy?

“We are approaching a time when brain science will be critical to our national security. Whether the basis for enhanced human performance or more intelligent machines, the impacts will be broad, motivating innovations in technologies, policies and practices. The prospects are similar to an earlier time ( i.e.- the 19th century) when advances in scientific understanding of the chemistry of explosives revolutionized weaponry, and the ways in which war was conducted. Brain science is poised to incur similarly far-reaching changes. There is need for a coordinated strategy as brain science becomes an increasingly important component of, and the basis for potential threats to, our national security. This strategy should provide a roadmap for translating advances, bolstered by initiatives such as the proposed Decade of the Mind and National Neurotechnology Initiative, to the national security domain. This strategy should also assure safeguards and governance, promoting U.S. leadership in establishing standards for the application of brain science to military, intelligence and other security domains. At the Fourth Decade of the Mind Conference, January 13-15, 2009, four areas were identified wherein national security will be impacted by advances in brain science.

1. Adversarial Application of Brain Science exemplified by: (a) nanoparticles engineered to affect specific brain processes, (b) “super soldiers” created through pharmaceuticals and/or brain stimulation enabling troops to think/react more quickly, exert greater concentration, etc. (c) brain imaging for interrogation/lie detection, and (d) intelligent machines replicating the mechanisms by which humans and other animals perform signal detection, information processing, etc.
2. Expanding the Limits of Human-Machine Systems Performance through technologies overcoming human perceptual and cognitive constraints limiting today’s technological solutions.
3. “Learner Specific” Education and Training – customized to the variable strengths and weaknesses of learners minimizing knowledge acquisition time and maximizing outcomes.
4. Brain Injuries and Disorders – treatments curtailing and reversing brain damage with understanding of mechanisms underlying psychological resilience suggesting techniques for assessing susceptibility, protecting against and treating stress-related pathologies.

It is reasonable to assume other nations have focused research and development on each of these areas. We assert that the U.S. should not engage in compensatory, “catch-up” research programs, as this will be costly to our national security from both an economic and pragmatic perspective. There are few fields that are as rapidly advancing as brain science. Combined with innovations in nanotechnology, genetics, microelectronics, etc., advances in brain science will only accelerate, and it is probable that major breakthroughs relevant to national security are both viable and imminently achievable. Consequently, we argue that there is need for a coordinated, strategic effort to address the ramifications of brain science in the interest of our national security.”

Note: For more about the legalities of neurowarfare I recommend this paper written by Cornell Law School student Stephen White.


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