The Pentagon’s been trying to get ahead of the curve on neuroscience for years, toying with ideas like mind-reading whether people are lying and performance-degrading drugs for enemy combatants. Now, it’s launching a major effort to harness neuroscience in a way that might better prepare soldiers for the mental rigors of modern warfare.
In a series of small business solicitations released last week, the Office of the Secretary of Defense outlined plans for a new “Cognitive Readiness Technology” program with the aim of “making our warfighters as cognitively strong as they are physically strong.”
Neuroscience is at the locus of the program. Before they can super-charge cognition, Pentagon scientists need to understand exactly how it works. So they’re launching “Neuromorphic Models of Human Social Cultural Behavior” (HSCB) to accurately model human cognition, including how we perceive, learn and retain information. HSCB models already exist, and are used by troops and decision-makers to predict the outcome of a choices during a mission. But the models “are only as good as the fidelity of the human behavior representations (HBR) that form them.” Right now, those representations are based entirely on empirical observation, which the military wants to swap out for a model that can tap into “the functions of the brain that give rise to actual human cognition.”
It’s not the first time the Pentagon has tried to map the human mind. Last year, research agency Darpa requested proposals for systems that would synchronize neural brain waves to optimize the mind’s storage capacity and memory recall. The agency has also tried to create synthetic versions of living brains, complete with “neuroscience-inspired architecture.”