If the military embraces the latest developments in neuroscience, soldiers could have their minds directly plugged into weapons systems, undergo brain scans during recruitment, and use neural stimulation to boost learning. These scenarios were described in a report by the Royal Society, which also highlights the legal and ethical concerns that such innovations will bring forth.
The authors also anticipate the creation of new designer drugs that boost performance, make captives more talkative, and plunge enemy troops into slumber. They even argue that hostile uses of neuroscience are more likely, since scientists remain oblivious to the consequences of their research.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can already improve people’s performance in some tasks. US neuroscientists are trying to improve people’s ability to spot improvised explosive devices (IEDs), snipers, and other hidden threats in virtual reality training using tDCS. Those that used tDCS responded almost twice as fast as the ones that didn’t.
Brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) will allow people to connect their brains directly into drones and weapons systems. This comes out of work that has enabled people to control computer cursors and artificial brains through BMIs that read their brain signals.
Using EEGs coupled with a system called neurofeedback, people can learn how to control brainwaves and improve their skills. It’s already been shown to improve training in golfers and archers.