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Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense

New book by Jonathan Moreno explores the ethical issues surrounding the emerging uses of neuroscience in national defense.

The Center for American Progress held an event yesterday to discuss the new book from CAP Senior Fellow Jonathan Moreno, Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense.

The book discusses the ethical and political issues surrounding technological advances in neuroscience that could soon begin altering American defense policy.

Author Jonathan Moreno was joined on the panel by Jennifer Bard, Professor of Law and Director of the Health Law Program at Texas Tech University; Paul Root Wolpe, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania; and moderator P.J. Crowley, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

The sheer possibilities presented by the new advancements are staggering; as moderator P.J. said, “Neurosecurity is fascinating and scary stuff.” Some believe that the brain chemical oxytocin could be turned into a kind of truth serum, for example, creating feelings of trust in a criminal or detainee during interrogation. Or a performance-enhancing medication could help soldiers retain their battle-readiness more than twenty hours a day.

Delving into the legal and ethical issues that these technologies raise, panelist Paul Root Wolpe said that these technologies are controversial because for the first time, American scientists are “developing the ability to bypass the nervous system and get information directly from the brain.” Because Americans want their thoughts to remain private, he doubted that “people are going to allow this.”

Bard said that the Bill of Rights “is flexible enough” to allow the use of the less controversial technologies for national security purposes; “it’s a more a question of privacy than legality.”

Mind Wars argues that we need to act now to create an advisory committee on neurodefense. The science has progressed to the point where public input on the correct uses for this technology is necessary. Neuroscience has great potential use in national defense, but it is not acceptable to infringe on American’s constitutional rights to do so.

Read about Mind Wars in The Wall Street Journal:

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