Forget performance-enhancing drugs for soldiers, the next frontier is performance-degrading drugs for our enemies. Rick Weiss at the Science Progress blog has just written a nice post about a just-released 150-page report from the National Research Council and the Defense Intelligence Agency that argues that the military needs to do a better job keeping up with neuroscience: in part so it can learn how to make our enemies stupider.
“Although conflict has many aspects, one that warfighters and policy makers often talk about is the motivation to fight, which undoubtedly has its origins in the brain and is reflected in peripheral neurophysiological processes,” quotes Weiss from the report. “So one question would be, ‘How can we disrupt the enemy’s motivation to fight?’ Other questions raised by controlling the mind: ‘How can we make people trust us more?’ ‘What if we could help the brain to remove fear or pain?’ ‘Is there a way to make the enemy obey our commands?’… As cognitive neuroscience and related technologies become more pervasive, using technology for nefarious purposes becomes easier.”
Date: Aug. 13, 2008
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Security Intelligence Organizations Should Monitor Advances
In Cognitive Neuroscience Research
WASHINGTON — Technological advancements in specific fields of neuroscience have implications for U.S. national security and should therefore be monitored consistently by the intelligence community, according to a new report from the National Research Council. In order to do so effectively, intelligence organizations need analysts with advanced scientific training and resources for the collection and analysis of neuroscience research and its technological applications, said the committee that wrote the report.
The intelligence community has had a long-standing interest in monitoring global technology trends that could affect U.S. national security. However, in fields where technology is advancing rapidly, the pace and breadth of research can overwhelm analysts. In addition, few intelligence analysts have scientific skills specialized enough to allow them to recognize significant advances in highly complex and emergent fields.
A 2005 National Research Council report described a methodology for gauging the implications of new technologies and assessing whether they pose a threat to national security. In this new report, the committee applied the methodology to the neuroscience field and identified several research areas that could be of interest to the intelligence community: neurophysiological advances in detecting and measuring indicators of psychological states and intentions of individuals, the development of drugs or technologies that can alter human physical or cognitive abilities, advances in real-time brain imaging, and breakthroughs in high-performance computing and neuronal modeling that could allow researchers to develop systems which mimic functions of the human brain, particularly the ability to organize disparate forms of data.
Research in these areas is progressing rapidly both nationally and internationally within the private, government, and academic sectors. Technologies such as brain imaging and cognitive or physical enhancers are important to the health industry and desired by the public; such forces act as strong market incentives for development. As these fields continue to grow, said the committee, it will be imperative that the intelligence community be able to identify scientific advances relevant to national security when they occur. To do so will require adequate funding, intelligence analysts with advanced training in science and technology, and increased collaboration with the scientific community, particularly academia.
The study was sponsored by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The National Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. A committee roster follows.
Copies of Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).