James Olds


James Giordano

Towards the Neuro-Future: Challenges and Opportunities

Neuroscience, is a new and emerging field that holds much promise, peril and possibility. I forecast that neuroscience will impact civilization in ways that are transformative, and in this way, a "neuro-centric future" is fast approaching. As with any powerful new technological tool, neuroscience will confer the capacity to incur potentially great good, as well as potentially great risk, of which we should all be aware. Are we prepared for the accelerated and exponential growth of neuroscience and its technologies that the current state of the field portends? Without doubt, the "neuro-centric" society will be vastly different. Examining future neuro-future scenarios is prudent to raise situational awareness, especially for national security. It is possible that "neuro-wars" will occur - fought by powers beyond the traditional borders of territory or geography, and engaged by cognitive assets and entities over a landscape of virtual spaces where there is only consciousness. But today, and in the more proximate future, it is likely that neuroscience and technology will transform as well the paradigms of national security, intelligence and defense, and will shape both the tools and the rules that such activities entail. How will we meet these challenges of neuroscientific and technological momentum and its impact on national security as well as society? What will the Neuro-Future hold, and what role do we have in creating this future and in shaping the future outcomes that will impact our civilization?

James Canton

Can (and Should) We Regulate Neurosecurity?: Lessons from the History of Science, Military, and Regulation

From Leonardo da Vinci's tank and Galileo's military compass to the Manhattan Project and human terrain teams, scientific research and the military have had a long relationship. There is thus reason to expect this relationship to incorporate the neurosciences as well, in the form of neuropharmacology, neural imaging, and neural engineering. It is an oversimplification to judge these developments in neurosecurity as either always bad or always good; cases must be judged on a much finer level, and so neuroethicists have called for regulatory/oversight bodies to monitor developments in neurosecurity. There is a history of research oversight bodies upon which to draw and judge the suitability of such a neurosecurity regulatory body: conflicts of interest committees, institutional review boards, institutional animal care and use committees. I survey the history of the science-military relationship as well as the history of research oversight efforts in order to assess the promises and perils of a neurosecurity regulatory body.

James Tabery

Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense

By any reasonable measure, including numbers of publications, academic positions and research funding, interest in the multi-disciplinary field known as neuroscience is rapidly growing. Another interdisciplinary field, bioethics, shows no signs of lessened interest or social importance. Although the bioethics literature on national security issues is surprisingly sparse, the implications of neuroscience for national security are of increasing public and scholarly interest. Evidence for this assertion is limited but compelling; as I will elaborate, one importance source of evidence can be found in reports by U.S. government advisory committees over the past several years. For various reasons there are no precise metrics of national security research and development. At least some of this work takes place under classified conditions, including “black” or unpublished budgets, but even more pertinent is the fact that R&D is not always clearly identified according to budget lines. Therefore standard trend analysis in terms of agency mission or dollar investment is not available. There are also familiar problems in defining precisely what kind of work falls under the ambit of neuroscience. But, as I hope to demonstrate, the growing interest in neuroscience on the part of national security agencies can be discerned in part by reviewing recent reports from the U.S. National Academies.

Jonathan Moreno

Hazards of Translation and Transformation: A Critique of Neuroscience in National Security from Science Studies, Ethics and Human Rights

Neuroscience explanations and neuroimages are both powerful and seductive. They have the potential to transform a variety of spheres of social activity, but not necessarily for the better. This presentation will explore some of the ways in which neuroscience is transforming (and has the potential to transform) the national security enterprise. These transformations (actual and potential) have triggered a variety of concerns. Human rights scholars and organizations are anxious about the impact of neuroscience and neurotechnologies on the human rights of soldiers and detainees. Ethicists worry about the ethical implications of neuroscience especially when applied to vulnerable populations. Some military and intelligence personnel are concerned about internal distortions, fearing that neuroscience will alter the priorities in their field just as—some argue—signals intelligence led to the de-prioritization of human intelligence. This presentation will argue that each of these communities has legitimate cause for concern, and will draw on science studies scholarship to explore some common factors that illuminate and/or unite these different expressions of concern. The presentation will call for a renewed discussion of the hazards at the intersections of neuroscience in national security—in conferences that are (like this one) open to the public, and in larger public fora.

Jonathan H. Marks

Neuroethics and National Security: The Promise and Peril of Neuroscience Technology, With a Hopeful Coda

Given the stakes, issues at the intersections of neuroscience and national security are rightly freighted with ethical, legal and social concerns. The use of neuroscience to tutor methods of influence in warfare is especially problematic, critics argue. A neuroscience-oriented agenda for national security research, however, can be morally praiseworthy, especially if it aids in development of technologies which can make warfare more humane or less likely. Given that we already influence each other's neurobiological states daily via conversation and action, exploring the interactions of environments and neural mechanisms in a responsible manner can open new pathways to prevention of loss of autonomy. Morality (be it virtue-theoretic, rights-oriented, or consequential in nature) may demand of us that we apply what we know about brains to questions of influence so as to forestall the use of brawn to resolve disputes between political communities.

William Casebeer

The human dimension and U.S. national security: Our current challenge, but greatest opportunity

There are few fields that are as rapidly advancing as brain science, reflected by the number of researchers, annual scientific publications, etc. Combined with innovations in nanotechnology, genetics, microelectronics, high-performance computing, etc., advances in brain science will only accelerate, and it is probable that major breakthroughs relevant to national security are both viable and imminently achievable. There exists a recurrent cycle in which problems emerge within the national security domain and the first, knee-jerk response is to seek technology solutions. Then, after substantial investment, and often losses, it is realized that there exists a significant human dimension. It is asserted that advances in brain science, combined with related progress in the behavioral sciences, interwoven with technological advances, provide a basis for breaking this cycle and converting the human dimension from a problem to be solved to a basis for an advantage achieved through enhanced human capabilities to more quickly and appropriately interpret events, reach better decisions and more effectively carry out action.

Chris Forsythe

The Neuroethical Classification of Modifications to Body and Self

Neuroethics, unlike its older cousin bioethics, cannot afford to develop its methodology within a domestic legal framework and culturally stable conceptions of moral agency and personhood. Bioethics didn’t develop during a period when we could expect the delivery of radical new biotechnologies upon this country regardless of permission by congressional act or courtroom precedent. Neuroethics requires an ultimately pragmatic assessment of the possible and actual uses of neuroscience and neurotechnology made by any country or group around the world, especially when establishing an ethical posture toward neuroscientific research by and for national defense. The new neurosciences and neurotechnologies are surpassing comfortable concepts of “the human,” “the person,” “the normal brain,” and “the moral agent.” The field of neuroethics needs a new general typology to distinguish crucially important modes of altering brain functioning and cognitive processes: beyond reversible enhancement or self-growth, genuinely novel and trans-human brain modifications may effectively create new selves that are not easily reversible. A new typology is accordingly designed to practically deal with these kinds of radical possibilities and questions. For example, if a brain modification permitted a person to kill without any moral qualms or psychological trauma (hardly a “moral enhancement”), this application means one thing to a person who is already a soldier and quite another to someone not intending a military career. The same brain modification can be a practical matter of either organic enhancement, self-growth, or self-creation, depending on the recipient. The “moral enhancement” of individuals is quite different from the “self-growth” transformation of professionals, which in turn is very different from the “self-creation” of single-use transhumans. Because self-creations are far more radical and ethically provocative than therapies, enhancements, personal growths, and the like, we must be prepared to correctly identify them and to subject any research and application to special ethical deliberation.

John Shook

Neuroscience and Technology in National Security: Toward Stance of Preparedness and Neuroethics of Prudent Action

Neuroscience and neurotechnology (NeuroS/T) can and will continue to be employed in military, and other national defense/security applications. But such employment raises serious concerns about 1) the uses and misuses of these techniques and technologies, and 2) the level of transparency maintained by government research laboratories, if not overall initiatives. These concerns are valid and must be addressed and responded to, but must be considered within the realities of how science and technology have been, and are used in leveraging geo-political power. This mandates commitment to NeuroS/T as critical to a national security agenda, as failure to do so could lead to distinct vulnerabilities both in US’ capability in these areas, and its population (and those of its allies). However, any and all such activities should be preceded and accompanied by both finely- and coarsely-grained ethical and technical analyses. Thus, governmentally-conducted activities of NeuroS/T must engage an often difficult – but nevertheless essential - balance of moral integrity and practical effectiveness. Any lack of transparency in the name of national security dictates careful oversight, governance and control of science and technology so as to insure that the moral and socio-legal aspects of any such work be analyzed, and addressed in light of public concerns. This presentation provides an overview of the field, and addresses these contingencies, and proposes a stance of pragmatic analyses of neuroscientific and neurotechnologic capabilities and limitations, preparedness for both scientific and socio-political outcomes that could emerge from the use of these approaches, and ongoing work – in both NeuroS/T and the moral, legal and social issues – that sustains an ethic of responsible action.

James Giordano