There is no question that in the future, neuroscience will be able to be weaponized. Given the vast advancements in neuroscience, the possibilities are frightening. DARPA, or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has already begun to blur the line between human and machine. One of their projects allows Department of Defense analysts to process images with blindingly fast speeds. Other projects in nano-neuroscience, pharmaceuticals, neuro-imaging, and cyber-neurosystems could be used for “offensive capabilities”. The future of neuroscience in military must be progress with careful oversight.
A paper, “Neurotechnology in National Security, Intelligence, and Defense“, illustrates many of the potential dangers of weaponizing neuroscience. One scenario the paper poses mirrors the plot of futuristic video game Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. In the game, nanomachines have the ability to monitor and modify soldiers’ brains to enhance performance. Other scenarios include enhancing brain power by combining machine and brain and mind reading using neuro-imaging techniques. The possibility of neuropharmacological drugs is another frightening possibility. These drugs could potentially control the mind, instantly kill, or paralyze enemies.
In response to these potentially dangerous applications of neuroscience, Curtis Bell (Oregon Health & Science University) wrote a pledge similar to the Hippocratic Oath for neuroscientists “to refuse to participate in [...] violations of human rights or international law.” This pledge aims to limit and prevent the use of neuroscience in torture and war. It is acts like Bell’s pledge that will allow the amazing and innovative advancements in neuroscience to be used for medical and social purposes rather than militarization. However, one cannot be naive and must realize that others will inevitably desire to use these advancements for negative purposes.