Published On: Thu, Feb 16th, 2012


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There is good and bad use of all computer related technologies. A GOOD USE is artificial limbs for instance that can be run by the brain. The bad use is artificial killing machines coupled with human bodies. And the latter is exactly what some have in store for us.

A group of forward-thinking military scientists want to plug soldiers’ weapons directly into their brains, and this time DARPA is nowhere to be found. The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of scientific thought, issued a report on the applications of neuroscience in the military and law enforcement contexts. Discussed therein: new performance-enhancing designer drugs, brain stimulation to boost brain function, and weapons systems that plug directly into the brain.

The wide-ranging document reportedly covers a lot of ground, including the ethical issues surrounding the use of neuroscience in defense. It seems to focus less on ways to impact the enemy directly, and more on the enhancement of soldiers’ fighting abilities–though neurological drugs that make enemy captives more talkative or perhaps cause enemy troops fall asleep or become disoriented also get a mention.

Of particular interest in the document: transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS. The idea of passing electrical signals through the skull to the brain to boost performance isn’t new to U.S. defense dreamers, as the U.S. military has already done tests on the technology (and found it helpful in improving soldiers’ abilities to detect threats). A battle helmet that can pass weak electrical pulses through the brain could sharpen a soldier’s mind, the report suggests, upping attention spans and memory as well as attention to detail.

Great, and it sounds dangerously similar to Universal Soldier – a not so happy ending story about genetically engineered soldiers, and Sergeant Todd’s battle to remain or should I say regain being human.

Of course, Universal Soldier is just Hollywood scifi created with the sole purpose of entertainment. But over a decade ago I was horrified watching a documentary showing they’d implanted devices in a bulls brain, got him angry enough to charge at a man, whilst running towards the man, the scientist clicked his box and the bull stopped dead in its track. To me it’s obvious they have been experimenting on humans too. God knows what they have done by now.

The Remote-Controlled Bull

Yale researcher Jose Delgado stood in the hot sun of a bullring in Cordova, Spain. With him in the ring was a large, angry bull. The animal noticed him and began to charge. It gathered speed. Delgado appeared defenseless, but when the bull was mere feet away, Delgado pressed a button on a remote control unit in his hand, sending a signal to a chip implanted in the bull’s brain. Abruptly, the animal stopped in its tracks. It huffed and puffed a few times, and then walked docilely away.

Delgado’s experience in the ring was an experimental demonstration of the ability of his “stimoceiver” to manipulate behavior. The stimoceiver was a computer chip, operated by a remote-control unit, that could be used to electrically stimulate different regions of an animal’s brain. Such stimulation could produce a wide variety of effects, including the involuntary movement of limbs, the eliciting of emotions such as love or rage, or the inhibition of appetite. It could also be used, as Delgado showed, to stop a charging bull.

Delgado’s experiment sounds so much like science fiction, that many people are surprised to learn it occurred back in 1963. During the 1970s and 80s, research into electrical stimulation of the brain (ESB) languished, stigmatized by the perception that it represented an effort to control people’s minds and thoughts. But more recently, ESB research has once again been flourishing, with reports of researchers creating remote-controlled rats, pigeons, and even sharks.

Interesting! The union between our bodies and emerging tech is certain and desirable. Fantastic. But when they stop us having guns, and plug theirs in between their ears. I admire the technology but when one day with a simple thought/breathe I could kill someone it gets to a point where it starts to scare me.

Read more at The Guardian



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- As a creative strategist I work on complex (digital) communications issues for international industry leading companies, organizations and agencies. I'm interested in how technology integrates with (and influences) traditional marketing, media, human behavior, society and culture.

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  1. [...] – raising the terrifying prospect that wars may in the future be fought by machine proxy, or machine-enhanced humans Related content: [...]

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