How The Military Could Turn Your Mind Into The Next BattlefieldGeorge Dvorsky12/19/14 2:09pmFiled to: Daily Explainersciencefuturismneuroscienceneuro-cognitive warfaremilitary technologyfuture warfaremilitaryneuroethicsbioethicsethicspsychologypsych-ops358EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalinkLong a staple of science fiction, the idea of creating weapons that can disrupt or alter the cognitive processes of enemy combatants is starting to become reality. Inspired by recent advances in neuroscience, the U.S. military is considering the potential for "neuro-cognitive weapons". Here's what you need to know about this fascinating and frightening prospect.Illustration by Jim Cooke.This particular area of concern is what the military, police, and IT folk refer to as neurosecurity, a burgeoning field nestled within the broader and more established domain of biodefense. While many of the technologies required to diminish or manipulate someone's thought processes won't exist for several decades, some are available right now. I spoke to two leading experts on the matter who told me what we can expect in the coming years, and what we should be doing to ensure these weapons are safe, effective, and not prone to abuse.AdvertisementNeuroscientist and neuroethicist Dr. James Giordano, a professor at Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington D.C., and author of Neurotechnology in National Security and Defense, described neurosecurity to me as, "the achievement and/or sustainment of some security initiative or agenda through the use of neuroscientific techniques and technologies of assessment and intervention." He says this term has more recently been referred to as "neuro-deterrence".Neurosecurity expert Dr. Jonathan Moreno from the University of Pennsylvania told io9 that it involves both defensive and offensive capabilities. Moreno, the author of Mind Wars, describes it as, "managing the use of tools provided by the neurosciences for purposes of protecting the security and interests of the sovereign state, along with its friends and allies." Neurosecurity can thus involve everything from boosting the psychological morale of soldiers to incapacitating enemy combatants with sophisticated "mind-jamming" devices.A Futuristic Idea Rooted in History Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience have attracted the attention of military planners who have started to take an active interest the so-called dual-use potential for neurotechnologies, including their application as neuro-cognitive weapons. Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. An early form of "mind control?""The rapid pace and considerable breadth and depth of recent developments in neuroscience and technology have enabled new knowledge about the structure and function of the brain," says Giordano. "Such knowledge, tools and technologies allow insights into individual, collective, and inter-group thought, emotions, and behavior that might be used in intelligence analysis and operations, and understanding aggression so as to develop more effective strategies and tactics of deterrence."To be fair, the military's concern with manipulating minds is nothing new. As Moreno reminded me, psychological warfare, or psy-ops, is the immediate precursor to these technologies. People responsible for fighting wars have long known that the psychological implications of conflict are extremely important. Back in the 19th century, for example, the Prussians tried to stimulate their soldiers with cocaine. During the Vietnam War, U.S. commanders experimented with methamphetamines like speed. And during the Cold War, the British considered the use of LSD to incapacitate enemy forces. ShareTweet Kinja is in read-only mode. We are working to restore service.