Military-Funded Brain Science Sparks Controversy
By Charles Choi
March 20, 2012
Brain research and associated advances such as brain-machine interfaces that are funded by the U.S. military and intelligence communities raise profound ethical concerns, caution researchers who cite the potentially lethal applications of such work and other consequences.
Rapid advances in neuroscience made over the last decade have many dual-use applications of both military and civilian interest. Researchers who receive military funding — with the U.S. Department of Defense spending more than $350 million on neuroscience in 2011 — may not fully realize how dangerous their work might be, say scientists in an essay published online today (March 20) in the open-access journal PLoS Biology.
For instance, a brain-computer interface was used by a monkey to remotely control a walking robot in 2007. However, such interfaces could help people operate weapons, robotic exoskeletons, killer drones and other machines while sheltered from the reality of combat and its deadly consequences, said bioethicist Jonathan Moreno at the University of Pennsylvania, author of “Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense” (Dana Press, 2006).