DARPA on Your Mind / Jonathan D. Moreno
DARPA on Your Mind / Jonathan D. Moreno
DARPA on Your Mind
By Jonathan D. Moreno
About Jonathan D. Moreno
Jonathan D. Moreno, Ph.D., is Emily Davie and Joseph S. Kornfeld Professor of Biomedical Ethics at the University of Virginia.
He is a bioethics advisor to several organizations including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Moreno is the author of several books including In the Wake of Terror: Medicine and Morality in a Time of Crisis (MIT Press, 2003), and Undue Risk: Secret State Experiments on Humans (Routledge, 2001).
He has published more than 200 professional and general articles and is an ethics commentator for ABCNews.com.
October 01, 2004
Applied science may once again play a decisive role in changing the face of armed conﬂict, and the rest of human affairs, by shifting the battleﬁeld to our very brains. The national-security establishmentóand particularly the Pentagonís Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)ó supports research at the intersection of neuroscience and national security that could u ltimately enable authorities to do things like enhance (or muddle, or erase) memory, monitor crowds for individuals whose brain patterns correlate with aggressive behaviors, or control weapons from afar merely with thoughts. What are the dangers of such information falling into ìthe wrong hands,î and are there any ìright handsî for this kind of knowledge? Is any extension of human abilities justiﬁed by the need for government to protect its society?
The long-term Defense implications of ﬁnding ways to turn thoughts into acts, if it [sic] can be developed, are enormous: Imagine U.S. warﬁghters that only need use the power of their thoughts to do things at great distances (emphasis in original).
óStrategic Plan, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, February 2003
A few years ago on a bucolic drive from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Washington, DC, my cell phone rang. Like any good citizen, I pulled over before I took the call.
ìDr. Moreno?î a female voice said.
ìYes?î I said.
ìI need to talk to you about a matteró actually, itísÖa national security matter.î
ìI read your book. I have been the victim of a government experiment, and I need to talk to you.î
As I have done many times, I tried to assure the caller that I am not a physician or a lawyer, only a bioethics professor who wrote a book about human experiments and national security. I expressed my sympathy but told her I was unable to give her relief.
Nonetheless, like others who have called or e-mailed me in the past six years, she was sure I could somehow help her. Mercifully, I lost the cell signal and the call.
I believe that people who think they have been victimized by government mind-control experiments are misguided, yet I am also impressed that there are thousands of such persons. I have worked for two presidential advisory commissions and have heard many of these people provide perfectly lucid testimony about scenarios I ﬁnd fantastic. Some of them are courageous and resolute in the struggle they perceive as having been foisted on them; others are distraught and terriﬁed of what horrors the next day may bring.
JUST BECAUSE YOUíRE PARANOID DOESNíT MEAN SOMEONE ISNíT FOLLOWING YOU
Despite the vast distance between their worldviews and mine, I have long been impressed at the irreducible kernel of truth behind these peopleís bizarre obsessions: The scientiﬁc community, in fact, has had a great deal of interest in ìmind control,î particularly those scientists in the United States and elsewhere who have been supported by the national security establishment. The history of this activity has been rich and rather odd, an offbeat slice of our cultural history. But the future is far more suggestive; it adds fuel to the ﬁre that inﬂames those fearful minds most of us ﬁnd hard to understand.
One might well wonder what ìthingsî the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has in mind to do ìat great distances,î and what else might thereby be made possible. The epigraph that opens this article comes at the end of a discussion, headed Enhanced Human Performance, in a Defense Department paper in which the authors declare, ìThe goal is to exploit the life sciences to make the individual warﬁghter stronger, more alert, more endurant, and better able to heal.î DARPAís Continuous Assisted Performance (CAP) program, the document continues, ìis investigating ways to prevent fatigue and enable soldiers to stay awake, alert, and effective for up to seven days straight without suffering any deleterious mental or physical effects and without using any of the current generation of stimulants.î Experiments are cited in which a monkey has been trained to manipulate a computer mouse or a telerobotic arm ìsimply by thinking about it.î
These remarkable objectives would be easier to dismiss if the agency could not boast such an impressive track record. Its overall mission is to bring discoveries from fundamental research to bear on the mission requirements of todayís warﬁghters, to accelerate the pace of applicable discoveries. Among DARPAís accomplishments in its continuous effort to ìﬁll the gapî between basic research and military use are the Saturn rocket, ground radar, the Stealth Fighter, and the Predator missile. DARPA-developed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have been used in Afghanistan and elsewhere. And then, of course, there is the one innovation that might prove to be the most socially transforming of them all: the Internet.
These mechanical and electronic innovations required extraordinary resources, foresight, intelligence, and patience. Unlike other areas of government, decades of development are acceptable in the DARPA framework. Today the agency is turning its considerable ingenuity and generous funding ($3 billion in ﬁscal year 2005) to the potentialities of biology, including, as we have seen, the enhancing of human performance.
The onrush of discoveries about the brain and the concomitant technological advancements suggest at least a few areas of interest. Two of theseóimproving intellectual endurance and achieving mental control at a distanceóare mentioned in DARPAís Strategic Plan. Others, such as memory enhancement and distant brain scanning (by means of a device that could detect telltale blood ﬂow in certain neural systems from a distance), also suggest interesting possibilities at the intersection of neuroscience and national security. In addition, they present formidable ethical questions that our society has barely articulated, let alone carefully addressed. Are there places that science just should not go when it comes to what Woody Allen once called his second favorite organ?
|Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)|
|Thread Tools||Search this Thread|