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Ethical considerations of military-funded neuroscience

Date:
March 20, 2012
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
The United States military and intelligence communities have developed a close relationship with the scientific establishment. In particular, they fund and utilize an array of neuroscience applications, generating profound ethical issues. Neuroscience offers possibilities for cutting edge, deployable solutions for the needs of national security and defense, but are, or at least should be, tempered by questions of scientific validity, consequential ethical considerations, and concern for the relationship between science and security.

The United States military and intelligence communities have developed a close relationship with the scientific establishment. In particular, they fund and utilize an array of neuroscience applications, generating profound ethical issues.

Neuroscience offers possibilities for cutting edge, deployable solutions for the needs of national security and defence, but are, or at least should be, tempered by questions of scientific validity, consequential ethical considerations, and concern for the relationship between science and security. This debate is explored in an essay by Jonathan D Moreno and Michael N Tennison, published March 20 in the online, open-access journal PLoS Biology.

Rapid advances in basic neuroscience over the last decade facilitate many "dual use" applications; those of both military and civilian interest. Neuroscientists who receive military funding may not fully appreciate the potentially lethal implications of their work. This paper seeks to cultivate a culture of dual use awareness, in both the scientific community and the general public.

For example, brain-computer interfaces, which have already been used to make monkeys control walking robots remotely, could enable humans to operate military devices while sheltered from the reality of combat. Also, research suggests that neuromodulation technologies, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation, could be used to enhance or suppress certain neurological capacities of soldiers on the battlefield. In addition, neuroscientific deception detection, while putatively performing better than traditional 'lie-detector' polygraphs, raises questions of reliability and privacy.

The authors suggest that issues such as these "need to be addressed to ensure the pragmatic synthesis of ethical accountability and national security." Just as many nuclear scientists of the time discussed the issues of using of atomic weapons, contributing to the test ban treaties of the 1960s, neuroscientists of today could engage the ethical, legal, and social implications of the militarization of their work.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael N. Tennison, Jonathan D. Moreno. Neuroscience, Ethics, and National Security: The State of the Art. PLoS Biology, 2012; 10 (3): e1001289 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001289

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Ethical considerations of military-funded neuroscience." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120320195800.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2012, March 20). Ethical considerations of military-funded neuroscience. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120320195800.htm
Public Library of Science. "Ethical considerations of military-funded neuroscience." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120320195800.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

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