Foreign Policy (USA): this is your brain. But your brain as a weapon

It was a normal July day in the laboratory of Duke University in two different rooms were two rhesus macaques. Every stared at your computer screen with the image of the virtual hands in two-dimensional space. The task of the monkeys was to direct the hand from the screen center to the target. When they achieved this success, the scientists gave them a SIP of juice.

But here lurked a trick. The monkeys had no joysticks or other devices, to implement manipulations on-screen hand. But in the section of the brain responsible for movement, they implanted electrodes. The electrodes capture and transmit neural activity to computers through wired connections.

But even more interesting. Primates jointly ran the digital movement of the limb. Thus, in one experiment one of the monkeys could control only movements horizontally and the second vertically only. But the monkeys have begun to learn by Association, and a certain manner of thinking has led to the fact that they were able to move the arm. Understanding this causal pattern, they continued to adhere to this course of action, in fact, thinking together, and thus the hand to the target and earn a juice.

Who led the study neurobiologist Miguel Nicolelis (Miguel Nicolelis) (the results were published this year) is known for its quite remarkable collaboration, which he calls brainet, or “brain network”. He hoped that ultimately such a collaboration of minds can be used to speed up rehabilitation of people affected by neurological disorders. More precisely, the brain of a healthy person will be able to work interactively with the brain of a patient who has had, say, a stroke, and then the patient will learn to speak and to move the paralyzed part of the body.

Work Nikolelis this is just another success in a long series of victories of modern Neurotechnology: interfaces to the nervous cells, the algorithms for decryption or stimulate these nerve cells, brain maps, giving a clearer picture of the complex chain that control cognition, emotion and action. From a medical point of view, it may be of great benefit. Among other things, it will be possible to create more advanced and agile prosthetic limbs that can convey the feeling to those who wear them; you will better understand some of the disease, type of Parkinson’s disease, and even cure of depression and many other mental disorders. That’s why all over the world conducted major studies in this area with the aim of moving forward.

But these innovative achievements may be a dark side. Of neyrotekhnologii tools are “dual-use”, this means that you can apply them not only to solve medical problems, but also for military purposes.

Those machines to scan the brain, which helps to diagnose Alzheimer’s or autism can, in theory, use to read other people’s thoughts. Attached to brain tissue and computer systems that allow a paralyzed patient by the power of thought to control robotic appendages, can also be used to control the bionic soldiers and manned aircraft. And those devices that support aging in the brain, can be used for suggestion of new memories or delete the existing ones — as allies and enemies.

Remember the idea of “brain networks” Nicolelis. In the words of bioethicist Professor Jonathan Moreno (Jonathan Moreno), working at the University of Pennsylvania, through the merger of brain signals from two or more people, you can create an invincible super-soldier. “Imagine that we can take intellectual knowledge, say, Henry Kissinger, who knows all about the history of diplomacy and politics, and then get all the knowledge from a person who has studied military strategy, the engineer from the Directorate of advanced studies of the Ministry of defense (DARPA), and so on,’ he says. You will be able to merge.” This brain network will allow you to make important decisions of a military nature on the basis of practical omniscience, and this will have serious political and social consequences.

I must say that while the ideas of science fiction. But after some time, according to some experts, they can become a reality. Of neyrotekhnologii rapidly evolving, and this means that not far off that time when we will receive new revolutionary abilities, and inevitably begin their commercial introduction. Management of perspective research, conducting important research and development work for the Ministry of defence is investing heavily in the technology of the brain. So, in 2014, it has begun to develop implants that detect and inhibit desires and motivations. The stated goal is to treat veterans suffering from addiction and depression. But you can imagine that this kind of technology will be used as a weapon — or, as they propagate they may be in the wrong hands. “The question is not whether or not non-state agents to use certain methods and neurobiological technologies, — says an expert on neuroethics medical center, Georgetown University James Giordano (James Giord). The question is, when they do, and what methods and technologies will take advantage of”.

Humans have long been captivated and horrified by the idea of mind control. Probably still too early to fear the worst — for example, that the state can use hacking methods to penetrate into the human brain. However neyrotekhnologii of dual-use have great potential, and their time is not far off. Some experts on ethics concerned that in the absence of legal mechanisms for regulating such technologies laboratory research will be able more easily to move in the plane of the real world.

Worse, for good or ill, but the brain is a “new battlefield,” says Giordano.

The desire to better understand the brain, which is probably the most understudied human organ, over the last 10 years has led to the rapid growth of innovation in Neurotechnology. In 2005 a group of scientists announced that she managed quite successfully to read human thoughts using functional magnetic resonance imaging, by which is measured the blood flow caused by brain activity. A Guinea, lying motionless in the growing scanner, staring at a small screen on which were projected on simple visual signals, the excitation is a random sequence of lines in different directions, partially vertical, partially horizontal, partially diagonal. The direction of each line caused a bit of distinct bursts of brain functions. Just looking at this activity, the researchers could determine which of the lines looks experimental.

It only took six years to significantly develop this technology for decoding brain — with the help of Silicon valley. University of California, Berkeley conducted a series of experiments. For example, in the study, in 2011, participants were asked to watch previews of films in functional magnetic resonance imaging, and scientists used data on the response of the brain to create the decryption algorithms for each subject. They then recorded the activity of nerve cells, when the experiment participants were watching various scenes from the new films, for example, a passage in which Steve Martin walks around the room. On the basis of the algorithms for each test, the researchers were later able to recreate this same scene, using only data of brain activity. These supernatural results is not very realistic in visual terms; they are similar to the creation of Impressionists: vague, Steve Martin swims in a surreal, ever-changing background.

Based on these results, a neuroscientist from the Medical University of South Carolina and co-author of the study in 2011 Naselaris Thomas (Thomas Naselaris), said: “the Ability to do such things as mind reading will appear sooner or later.” And then he said: “It will be possible in our lifetime”.

This work accelerates rapidly developing technology that is responsible for the interface brain-machine neural implants and computers that read brain activity and translate it into action, or Vice versa. They stimulate the neurons to create views or physical movements. The first modern interface appeared in hardware in 2006, when neuroscientist John Donoghue (John Donoghue) with his team of brown University implanted a square chip measuring less than five millimeters with 100 electrodes in the brain known 26-year-old Matthew Nagle (Matthew Nagle), who was stabbed in the neck and was almost completely paralyzed. Electrodes, placed it over the motor area of the cerebral cortex, which, among other things, controls the movements of the hands. A few days later Nagle from the connected devices to your computer learned to move the cursor and even open the email with a thought.

Eight years later, a brain-machine interface has become much more complex and sophisticated, as shown by the world Cup in Brazil in 2014. 29-year-old Giuliano Pinto (Juliano Pinto), who was completely paralyzed lower body, wearing a brain-controlled robotic exoskeleton developed at Duke University to make the first kick at the opening ceremony in Sao Paulo. Helmet on the head of Pinto picked up signals of his brain, pointing to the intention of the men to hit the ball. Attached to the back Pinto the computer, upon receiving these signals, has launched a robotic suit that he performed the command of the brain.

Of neyrotekhnologii went even further, doing such a complex thing as a memory. Studies have shown that one person is able to convey his thoughts in another person’s brain, as in the blockbuster “Inception.” In 2013, a team of scientists led by the Nobel laureate from the Massachusetts Institute of technology, Suzumi Tonegawa (Susumu Tonegawa) conducted an experiment. The researchers implanted the mice so-called “false memory”. Watching the brain activity of a rodent, they put a mouse into the container and watched as she began to get acquainted with the environment. Scientists managed to allocate one million cells of the hippocampus a very specific set, which they encouraged, until it has formed a spatial memory. The next day the researchers put the animal in another container, which mouse had never seen, and applied an electric discharge, simultaneously activating the nerve cells with which the mouse remembered the first box. Formed Association. When they sent the rodent in the first container, he froze in fear, even though he never experienced shock. Two years after opening Tonegawa team from the research Institute of SCRIPPS started to give experimental mice a drug that can remove some memories, while leaving others. This technology of erasing memories can be used for the treatment of post-traumatic stress, removing the painful thoughts and thereby improving the patient’s condition.

It is likely that such research work will gain momentum, because studying the brain the revolutionary science lavishly funded. In 2013, the United States had launched a research program BRAIN brain research through the development of innovative Neurotechnology. Only for the first three years of the research it is planned to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars; and the amount of appropriations for the future is not yet defined. (National institutes of health, which is one of five Federal members of the project have requested $ 4.5 billion for the 12-year period, and it is only on their own work in the program.) The EU, for its part, has allocated approximately 1.34 billion dollars for the project “the Human brain”, which began in 2013 and will last 10 years. Both programs are aimed at creating innovative means to investigate the structure of the brain, forming a multidimensional schema and eavesdrop on the electrical activity of billions of neurons in it. In 2014, a similar initiative launched by Japan, it called Brain/MINDS (Preparation of brain structures with integrated Neurotechnology for the study of diseases). Even Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (Paul Allen) allocates hundreds of millions of dollars into an Institute for the study of the brain behalf of Allen, who does extensive work on the creation of atlases of the brain and to study the mechanisms of vision.

Of course, no matter how improbable it may seem the recent invention of neyrotekhnologii are currently in their infancy. They act inside the brain for a short time, can read and stimulate only a limited number of neurons, and require wired connections. “Reading the brain” of the machine, for example, to obtain even the most primitive of the results require the use of expensive equipment, which is available only in laboratories and hospitals. However, the willingness of researchers and their sponsors to continue work in this area ensures that these devices every year will be to improve, to become widespread and more affordable.

Each new technology will create creative opportunities for its practical application. But ethicists warn that one such practical application is to develop a neural weapons.

It seems that today there are no such tools of the brain, which are used as weapons. However, it should be noted that their value to the field of battle is currently being evaluated and is actively studied. So, this year, a woman with paralysis of the four limbs flew in the simulator the F-35, using only the power of thought and the brain implant, the development of which was funded by DARPA. It appears that the use of Neurotechnology as weapons it’s not such a distant future. In the world many cases where technology from the sphere of fundamental science quickly moved to the practical level, becoming a devastating global threat. In the end, from the discovery of the neutron to the atomic explosions in the sky over Hiroshima and Nagasaki took only 13 years.

Stories about how States are manipulated by the brain, could be a lot of conspiracy theorists and science fiction writers, if world powers in the past behaved in a more restrained and honest in the field of neurobiology. But in the course of a very strange and scary experiments conducted from 1981 to 1990, the Soviet scientists have created equipment intended for the disruption of nerve cells in the body. To do this, they put more people in the high-frequency electromagnetic radiation at different levels. (The results of this work are unknown until now.) For many decades the Soviet Union has spent on such schemes of mind control more than one billion dollars.

The most scandalous cases of American abuse of neurobiology have on 1950-e and 1960-e years, when Washington conducted extensive research programme to investigate methods of monitoring and influence on human thought. The CIA carried out their own studies under the name MKUltra to “search, study and development of chemical, biological and radiological materials for use in clandestine operations to control human behavior,” says the report of the inspector General of the CIA in 1963. This work attracted some 80 organizations, including 44 College and University, but it was funded often under the guise of other scientific goals and objectives, thereby participating in it, people were unaware that fulfill orders Langley. The most controversial aspect of this program — the purpose of the experimental drug LSD, often without their knowledge. One person from Kentucky the drug was given to 174 days in a row. But no less terrible project MKUltra to study the mechanisms of extrasensory perception and electronic manipulation of human brain and attempts the collection, interpretation and influence on people’s minds through hypnosis and psychotherapy.

Today there is no evidence that the United States continues to use nanotehnologii in the interests of national security. But the armed forces are determined to move forward in this area. According to Professor Margaret Kosal (Margaret Kosal) from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the army on the neurobiological research allocated $ 55 million, the Navy has 34 million, and in the air force 24 million. (It should be noted that the armed forces of the United States is the main sponsor various fields of science, including engineering design, engineering, and computer science.) In 2014, the Office of advanced research projects of national intelligence (IARPA), which is developing the latest technology for us intelligence, has allocated 12 million dollars for the development of methods to increase results, among which electric stimulation of the brain in order to “optimize adaptive thinking” — that is, that analysts have become smarter.

But the main driving force is DARPA, which is the envy and intrigue throughout the world. At the same time this office supports over 250 different projects, gaining and directing the work of the expert teams from academia and industry who perform the ambitious and extremely difficult task. DARPA has no equal in finding and funding fantastic projects that will change the world: the Internet, GPS, stealth aircraft, and so on. In 2011, it’s management, having a modest (by the standards of the military Department) annual budget of three billion dollars, just for neurobiological studies planned appropriations in the sum of $ 240 million. It is also planned to allocate the first few years of the BRAIN program of approximately $ 225 million. It is only 50 million less than the amount that for the same period was allocated by the main sponsor — National institutes of health.

Because DARPA is known for their revolutionary developments and became famous around the world, other powers soon followed her example. In January this year, India announced that it will rebuild its Organization defence research and development in the image and likeness of DARPA. Last year, the Russian military announced the allocation of $ 100 million for the new advanced research Foundation. In 2013, Japan announced the establishment of the Agency, “similar to the us DARPA”, as stated by the Minister of science and technology of Ichita Yamamoto (Yamamoto Ichita). In 2001 it was created the European defence Agency in response to calls to form a “European DARPA”. There are even attempts to apply the DARPA model to corporations such as Google.

Not yet defined, the role of these research centers will play a neurobiology. But with the recent progress in technology of the brain, DARPA interest in these matters and the desire for new centers to follow the lead of the Pentagon, it is likely that this area of science will attract some attention, which over time will only increase. A former state Department official Robert Macgrath (Robert McCreight), more than twenty years specializing in arms control and other security issues, says that the competitive environment can lead to scientific race in the field of neurobiology, which aims to control nerve cells and turn them into a commodity. But there is a danger that this kind of research go into the military sphere to make the brain more efficient instrument of warfare.

It is hard to imagine how it will look. Today helmet equipped with electrodes collects the EEG brain signals only with a limited and well-defined objective, for example, to kick the ball. And tomorrow, these electrodes will be able to secretly collect the access codes to the weapons. Similarly, a brain-machine interface can be a tool for downloading data and used, for example, to penetrate the thoughts of the enemy spies. Will be even worse if access to such Neurotechnology will get the terrorists, hackers, and other criminals. They can use such instruments to manage purposeful murderers and to steal personal information such as passwords and credit card numbers.

The concern is that today there are no mechanisms that prevent the realization of such scenarios. There are very few international agreements and national laws that effectively protect personal privacy, and none directly related to Neurotechnology. But if we talk about dual-use technologies and work to create weapons, barriers here even less, therefore, than the human brain turns into a vast lawless territory.

Neuroscience has become a kind of gap in international law. Neuroguide, enable brain, “not biological or chemical, and electronic,” says Professor of public policy at Rutgers University Marie Chevrier (Marie Chevrier). This is a very important distinction, because the two existing UN treaties — the Convention on the prohibition of biological weapons and the Convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons, which theoretically can be used to fight abuse in the field of Neurotechnology, there are no provisions on electronic means. Actually, these treaties were written in such a way that their action does not cover new trends and discoveries; this means that the restriction of certain types of weapons can be introduced only after its occurrence.

Chevrier said that since neural weapons will affect the brain, the Convention on the prohibition of biological weapons, which prohibits the use of harmful and deadly biological organisms, or their toxins, you can make changes by including provisions for such weapons. She is not alone with his point of view: many ethicists insist on more active involvement of neuroscientists to regular revisions of the Convention and its observance, on which member countries make decisions about modifications to it. Chevrier said that this process is currently not enough scientific Council. (At the August meeting on this Convention is one of the main proposals regarding the creation of such a body with the inclusion in its composition of neuroscientists. The result of the discussion at the time of publication of article unknown.) Technical awareness is able to accelerate the practical actions of the parties to the Convention. “Politicians don’t understand just how serious this threat,” said Chevrier.

But even in the presence of the academic Council of the UN bureaucracy, operating with the speed of a turtle, can create a lot of problems. Conference on the revision of the Convention on the prohibition of biological weapons, where States report on new technologies that can be used to create such weapons are held only every five years, and this ensures that amendments to the contract will be considered much later than the latest scientific discoveries. “The General trend is that science and technology moves forward by leaps and bounds, and ethics and politics are lagging behind, says an expert on neuroethics medical center, Georgetown University Giordano. They usually only react, but not act proactively”. Ethicists have already given this gap: the dilemma of Collingridge (named David Collingridge (David Collingridge), who published in the 1980 book the Social Control of Technology (Social control over technology) wrote that it is very difficult to predict the possible consequences of new technologies, which makes it impossible to take action ahead of the curve.)

However, the expert on bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, Moreno said that’s not an excuse for inaction. Experts on the ethics required to do so to political leaders fully understood the nature of scientific discoveries and the potential threats they pose. In his opinion, National institutes of health could establish a permanent research programme neurotica. Royal society of the UK has taken a step in this direction five years ago, by convening a coordinating Committee consisting of neuroscientists and experts on ethics. Over the years the Committee has published four reports on the achievements of neurobiology, including one about the consequences in the sphere of national security and conflict. This document is a call to put neuroscience into the spotlight at the conference on the revision of the Convention on the prohibition of biological weapons and the requirement for such a body as the world medical Association to conduct studies on the use of military technologies that affect the nervous system, including those not covered by the rules of international law, for example, brain-machine interface.

However, neurotica this is a fairly young branch of knowledge. Even the name of this discipline appeared only in 2002. Since then it has grown significantly and now includes a Program to neuroethics Stanford University, the Oxford centre neurotica, the initiative “European neuroscience and society” and so on. Funding this activity is supported by the MacArthur Foundation and the Dana Foundation. However, the impact of these institutions is still insignificant. “They identified a space for activities, says Giordano. Now we should start working”.

Also of considerable concern is the fact that scientists do not have information on dual use of Neurotechnology. Specifically, there is a gap between research and ethics. Professor of international security from Bradford University, England Malcolm Dando (Malcolm Dando) recalls how in 2005 he organized several workshops for the faculties of natural Sciences British universities, making it a year before the conference to revise the Convention on the prohibition of biological weapons, the Aim was to inform experts about the possible misuse biological and neurobiological tools. He was shocked how little on this subject known to the colleagues from the scientific community. For example, one scientist denied that he had stored in the fridge microbes have the potential dual purpose, and that they can be used for military purposes. Dando remembers that it was a “dialogue of the deaf”. Since then, little has changed. Lack of awareness among the neuroscientists “definitely has place”, explains Dando.

A positive point is that the moral problems of neurobiology today find the confession to the authorities, says Dando. Barack Obama instructed the presidential Commission for the study of bioethics report on ethical and legal issues related to advanced technologies for BRAIN initiatives, and in the framework of the EU project “Human brain” was created the program “Ethics and society” to coordinate the actions of the government in this direction.

But all these efforts could divert away from the very specific issue of narboroughi. For example, in a 200-page report on the ethical implications of the BRAIN initiative, which was published in full in March of this year, there are no such terms as “dual-use” and “development of weapons”. Dando says that such silence, and even in neuroscience, where it would seem that this topic should open up very wide, is the rule and not the exception.

When neuroscientist Nicolelis in 1999 created the first brain-machine interface (the rat with the power of thought pressed the lever to get water), he could not imagine that his invention would be used for the rehabilitation of paralyzed people. But now his patients can kick a soccer ball on the field world Cup using a brain controlled exoskeleton. And the world appears more and more areas of practical application of such an interface. Nicolelis is working on a version of non-invasive therapy, creating encephalographic helmet that patients wear in hospitals. Doctor tuning in the wave of their brain, helps injured people walk by. “The physiotherapist uses their brain 90 percent of the time, and the patient 10 percent of the time, and thus, the patient is likely to learn faster,” says Nicolelis.

However, it was concerned that, with the development of innovation someone can use them for improper purposes. In the mid-2000s, he participated in the work of DARPA, helping with brain-machine interface to regain mobility to veterans. Now he refuses to money management. Nicolelis feels that he is in the minority, at least in the United States. “I think some neuroscientists, in their meetings, foolishly boasted how much money they received from DARPA for his research, but do not even think, that really wants them to DARPA,” he says.

It hurts to think about what a brain-machine interface, which is the fruit of the labor of a lifetime can turn into a weapon. “The last 20 years, says Nicolelis, — I’m trying to do something that will give intellectual benefits from the knowledge of the brain and will ultimately benefit the medicine.”

But the fact remains: together with the Neurotechnology for medicine creates neuroguide. This is undeniable. It is unknown what this weapon when it will appear, and in whose hands he found himself. Of course, people don’t need to fear that their minds here-here will fall under someone’s control. Today it seems a distant fantasy nightmare scenario in which new technologies transform the human brain into a tool more sensitive than sniffer explosives search dog, controlled like a drone, and unprotected as a wide open safe. However, we must ask ourselves the question: has enough been done to take control of deadly weapons, a new generation, while you still can.