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Here is your brain. But your brain as a weapon
Material posted: Publication date: 13-04-2016
Modern neural technologies help to erase painful memories and to read human thoughts. They can also become a new battlefield of the twenty-first century.

the very ordinary 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 guide the arm from the center of the screen to the goal. When they achieved this success, the scientists gave them a SIP of juice.

But there was of course a trick. The monkeys had no joysticks or other devices, to implement the manipulation of on-screen hand. But in the area of the brain responsible for movement, they implanted electrodes. The electrodes are caught and passed on neural activity in the computers using wired connections.

But even more interesting is another. The primates jointly ran the digital movement of the limb. So, during one experiment, one monkey could control the movements of only horizontally and the second vertically only. But the macaques started to learn by Association, and a certain manner of thought have led to the fact that they were able to move the arm. Realizing this causal regularity, they continued to adhere to this course of action, in fact, thinking together, and thus, bringing the hand to the target and earn a juice.

Headed the research of neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis (Miguel Nicolelis) (the results were published this year) is known for its very remarkable collaboration, which he calls brainet, or "brain network". He hoped that eventually this 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 the patient who had, say, a stroke, and then the patient quickly learns to speak and to move a paralyzed part of the body.

The work of Nicolelis is just the latest success in a long string of victories of modern neurotechnologies: interfaces to the nervous cells, the algorithms for decryption or stimulate these nerve cells, brain map, which gives a clearer picture of complex chains that control cognition, emotions and actions. From a medical point of view, this may be of great benefit. Among other things, it will be possible to create better and more efficient prosthetic limbs, which can transmit sensations to those who wear them; it will be possible to better understand some diseases type of Parkinson's disease, and even cure of depression and many other mental disorders. That is why in the world are major studies in this area with the aim of moving forward.

But in these innovative achievements may be the dark side. Neurotechnologies are tools of "dual-use", which means that they can be used not only to resolve medical concerns but also for military purposes.

The apparatus for scanning the brain that help diagnose Alzheimer's or autism can, in theory, be used to read the thoughts of others. Attached to brain tissue of a computer system that allows a paralyzed patient's thoughts to control robotic appendages, can also be used to control bionic soldiers and manned aircraft. And those devices that support aging in the brain, can be applied to instill new memories, or remove existing — as allies and enemies.

Remember the idea of "brain networks" Nicolelis. According to the specialist on bioethics 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 of a person versed in military strategy, the engineer of the Department for prospective studies, Ministry of defense (DARPA), and so on, he says. You will be able to unite". 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 this idea from the realm of science fiction. But after a while, claim some experts, they can become a reality. Neurotechnologies are developing rapidly, and this means that it is not far off when we will have new revolutionary abilities, and inevitably begin their commercial introduction. Management of promising research, conducting important research and development work on behalf of 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 suppress the desires and motivations. The stated goal is to treat veterans suffering from addictions and from depression. But you can imagine that such technology will be used as a weapon — or that when they spread 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 the expert on neuroethics of medical center, Georgetown University James Giordano (James Giord). — The question is, when they do, and what methods and technologies will take advantage of".

People have long captivates and horrifies the idea of mind control. Perhaps it is too early to fear the worst — for example, that the state can hacking methods to penetrate into the human brain. However, neurotechnologies 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 is will be able more easily to move to the plane of the real world.

For better or for worse, 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 past 10 years has led to a rapid growth of innovations in Neurotechnology. In 2005 a group of scientists announced that it has managed quite successfully to read human thoughts using functional magnetic resonance imaging, by which is measured the blood flow caused by brain activity. Guinea, lying motionless in the scanner Rostov, looking at a small screen on which was projected a simple visual excitation signal is a random sequence of lines in different directions, partially vertical, partially horizontal, partially diagonal. The direction of each line caused a bit distinct bursts of brain function. Just looking at this activity, scientists could determine which of the lines looks experimental.

It took just six years to significantly develop this technology for decoding brain — not without the help of Silicon valley. University of California at Berkeley conducted a series of experiments. For example, in a study in 2011, participants were asked to watch the movie trailers, movie in functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, the researchers used data on the response of the brain to create the decryption algorithms for each test subject. They then recorded the activity of nerve cells, when study participants watched scenes from various new films, for example, a passage in which Steve Martin walks around the room. On the basis of algorithms each Respondent, 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 the Impressionists: vague, Steve Martin is sailing on 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 be with us sooner or later." And then said: "This will be possible in our lifetime".

This work accelerates rapidly developing technology, responsible for the interface brain-machine neural implants and computers that read brain activity and translating it into action, or Vice versa. They stimulate the neurons to create concepts or physical movements. Modern interface first appeared in hardware in 2006, when neuroscientist John Donoghue (John Donoghue) with her team from brown University implanted a square chip size of less than five millimeters with 100 electrodes in the brain known 26-year-old footballer Matthew Nagle (Matthew Nagle), who was stabbed in the neck and was almost completely paralyzed. Electrodes placed over the motor area of the cerebral cortex, which controls hand movements. A few days later Neigl using connected to the computer device has learned to move the cursor and even open e-mails with a thought.

Eight years later, brain-machine interface has become much more complicated and sophisticated, as shown by the FIFA 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 of the ball at the opening ceremony in Sao Paulo. Helmet on the head of Pinto took the from 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 fulfilled the command of the brain.

Neurotechnologies have gone even further, doing such a complex thing as memory. Studies have shown that one person is able to convey thoughts in the brain of another person, as in the blockbuster "Inception." In 2013 a team of scientists under the leadership of Nobel laureate from the Massachusetts Institute of technology, Suzumi of Tonegawa (Susumu Tonegawa) conducted an experiment. The researchers implanted the mice so-called "false memory". Watching the brain activity of the rodent, they put a mouse into the container and watched as she began to get acquainted with the environment. Scientists have managed to allocate one million cells of the hippocampus completely certain set, which they encouraged, until it formed spatial memory. The next day 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. The Association was formed. When they returned the rodent in the first container, he froze with fear, though he had never experienced shock. Two years after the opening of Tonegawa team from the research Institute of SCRIPPS started to give experimental mice a drug that can remove memories, while leaving the other. This technology of erasing memories can be used to treat 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 brain the revolutionary science lavishly funded. In 2013, the United States launched a research program BRAIN brain research through innovative neurotechnologies. Only for the first three years of the research it is planned to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars; and the appropriation of the term is not yet defined. (National institutes of health, which became one of five Federal participants in the project, has requested $ 4.5 billion for the 12-year period, and it's only for own work within 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 tools for exploring brain structure, development of his multidimensional schema and eavesdropping of the electrical activity of billions of neurons. In 2014, a similar initiative launched Japan, its called Brain/MINDS (Preparation of brain structures with integrated neurotechnologies for disease studies). Even Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (Paul Allen) allocates hundreds of millions of dollars for his Institute for the study of the brain named the Allen, which conducts extensive work on the creation of atlases of the brain and to study the mechanisms of vision.

Of course, no matter how improbable may seem the recent invention, neurotechnologies 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 brain" of the machine, for example, to obtain even the most primitive of the results require the use of expensive equipment that is available only in laboratories and hospitals. Nevertheless, 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 ubiquitous and more affordable.

Each new technology will create creative opportunities for its practical application. However, experts in ethics warn that one such practical application can be the development of 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 for the field is currently being evaluated and is being actively investigated. So, this year, a woman with paralysis of the four limbs flew on the simulator F-35, using only the power of thought and brain implant, the development of which was financed by DARPA. It seems that the use of Neurotechnology as weapons it's a matter of not so distant future. The world has plenty of precedents, when the technology from the sphere of fundamental science quickly moved into action, turning into a devastating global threat. In the end, from the discovery of the neutron to nuclear explosions in the skies over Hiroshima and Nagasaki was only 13 years old.

Stories about how States are manipulated by the brain, could be the stuff of conspiracy theorists and science fiction writers, if world powers in the past behaved more restrained and honest in the field of neurobiology. But in the very strange and terrible experiments, conducted from 1981 to 1990, Soviet scientists have created the equipment to malfunction of nerve cells in the body. To do this, they put people high frequency electromagnetic radiation of 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 over one billion dollars.

The most scandalous cases of American abuse of neurobiology occur in the 1950s and 1960s, when Washington conducted extensive research programme to investigate methods for tracking and influencing the thoughts of man. The CIA carried out their own studies under the name MKUltra for the purpose of "exploration, 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 over the 1963 year. This work was drawn about 80 organizations, including 44 College and University, but it was funded often under the guise of scientific goals and objectives, thereby participating in it the people remained in the dark that carry out the orders Langley. The most controversial point of this program is the appointment 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 mind through hypnosis and psychotherapy.

Today there is no evidence that the United States continue to use neurotechnologies in national security interests. But the armed forces are determined to move forward in this area. According to Professor Margaret Kosal (Margaret Kosal) from Georgia tech, in the army for neurobiological studies allocated $ 55 million, the Navy at 34 million, and in the air force 24 million. (It should be noted that the U.S. armed forces is the main sponsor of the various fields of science, including engineering design, mechanical engineering and computer science.) In 2014, the Office of advanced research projects of the national intelligence Agency (IARPA), which is developing the most advanced technologies for the U.S. intelligence agencies, has allocated 12 million dollars for the development of methods to increase results, among which electric stimulation of the brain in order to "adaptive optimization of human thinking" — that is, that analysts are smarter.

But the main driving force is DARPA, which is the envy and intrigue throughout the world. At the same time the management of finances about 250 different projects, gaining and guiding the work of expert teams from academia and industry who perform ambitious and extremely difficult task. DARPA is unrivaled in finding and funding fantastic projects that change the world: the Internet, GPS, stealth aircraft, and so on. In 2011, it management, having a modest (by the standards of the military Department) annual budget of three billion dollars, only to neurobiological studies planned allocations in a bag of 240 million dollars. It is also planned to allocate for the first few years of the BRAIN program of approximately $ 225 million. It is only 50 million less than the bag, which at this period was allocated by the main sponsor — the National institutes of health.

Because DARPA is known for its revolutionary designs and became famous around the world, other powers soon followed suit. In January of this year, India announced that it would restructure 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 office, "similar to the U.S. DARPA", as stated by the Minister of science and technology of Ichita Yamamoto (Yamamoto Ichita). In 2001 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 determined what role these research centers will play a neurobiology. But with recent advances in technology of the brain, DARPA's 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 employee of the state Department of Macgrath Robert (Robert McCreight), more than twenty years specializing in arms control and other security issues, says that such a 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 here there is a danger that this kind of research go into the military to make the brain more efficient instrument of warfare.

It is hard to imagine how it would look. Today, a helmet equipped with electrodes collects the electroencephalographic signals of the brain only to 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, brain-machine interface can be a tool for downloading data and can be used, for example, to penetrate the thoughts of enemy spies. Will be even worse if such neurotechnologies will get the terrorists, hackers and other criminals. They will be able to use these tools to manage motivated and murderers to steal your personal information such as passwords and credit card numbers.

The concern is the fact that today there are no mechanisms that would prevent the implementation 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 the dual-use technologies and works to create weapons, barriers here even less, therefore, the human brain turns into a vast area of lawlessness.

Neurobiology is a certain gap in international law. Neuroguide, sagastume brain, "not biological or chemical, and electronic," says Professor of public policy from Rutgers University Marie Chevrier (Marie Chevrier). This is an 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 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 only be entered after its emergence.

The film argues that because neural weapons will affect the brain, in 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 experts on ethics insist on the more active involvement of neuroscientists to regular revisions of the Convention and its observance, on which member countries make decisions about modifications to it. At last they said that this process is currently not enough scientific Council. (At the August meeting on this Convention is one of the main proposals was related to the establishment of such a body with the inclusion of neuroscientists. The result of the discussion at the time of publication of article unknown.) Technical information able to accelerate practical actions of the parties to the Convention. "Politicians just don't understand how serious this threat is," says Chevrier.

But even in the presence of the academic Council of the UN bureaucracy, operating with the speed of a turtle, can create many problems. The review conference 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 once 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 always that science and technology moves forward by leaps and bounds, but ethics and politics are lagging behind, says a specialist in neuroethics at the medical center at Georgetown University Giordano. They usually only react, but not act pre-emptively". Experts on ethics have already given a name to this lag: the dilemma of Collingridge (on behalf of David Collingridge (David Collingridge), which is published in his 1980 book the Social Control of Technology (the technology) wrote that it is very difficult to predict the possible consequences of new technologies, which makes it impossible to take action on the lead.)

However, an expert in bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania Moreno says that it is not an excuse for inaction. Experts on ethics have to do so that the political leadership fully understands the nature of scientific discoveries and the potential threats they pose. In his opinion, National institutes of health could establish a permanent research programme on neuroethics. Royal society of the U.K. has taken a step in this direction five years ago and to convene 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 in the conferences of revision of the Convention on the prohibition of biological weapons and the requirement to such a body as the world medical Association about conducting research on the use of military technologies that affect the nervous system, including those not covered by international law, for example, brain-machine interface.

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

Also of considerable concern is the fact that scientists don't have information about dual-use of neurotechnologies. Specifically, there is an evident gap between scientific research and ethics. Professor of international security from the University of Bradford in 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 review conference of the Convention on the prohibition of biological weapons, the Aim was to inform specialists about possible incorrect use of 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-use, 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 the case", explains Dando.

A positive point is that the moral issues of neuroscience are now being recognized in the authorities, says Dando. Barack Obama instructed the presidential Commission for the study of bioethics to prepare a report on ethical and legal issues related to advanced technology initiative BRAIN and in the framework of the EU project "Human brain" was created by the program "Ethics and society" to coordinate the actions of public authorities in this direction.

But all these efforts could sidetrack 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 said that such silence, and even in neuroscience, where, apparently, this topic should be opened very widely, is the rule and not the exception.

When neuroscientist Nicolelis in 1999 created the first brain-machine interface (power of thought, the rat pulled the lever to get water), he had no idea that his invention would be used for 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 this interface. Nicolelis working on a version of non-invasive therapy, creating a EEG helmet that patients wear in hospitals. The doctor, tuning in to the wave of their brain, helps injured people to walk. "The physiotherapist uses their brain 90% of the time, and the patient 10 percent of the time, and thus, the patient will likely learn faster," says Nicolelis.

However, it was concerned that, with the development of innovation someone can use them in wrong purposes. In the mid-2000s, he participated in the work of DARPA, helping with the help of a brain-machine interface to regain mobility to veterans. Now he refuses money from the authority. Nicolelis feels that he is in the minority, at least in the US. "I think some neuroscientists, in their meetings, foolishly bragging about how much money they received from DARPA for his research, but do not even think what you actually want from them DARPA," he says.

It is painful to think that the brain-machine interface, which is the fruit of the labor of his whole life, can turn into a weapon. "The last 20 years, says Nicolelis, I'm trying to do something that will give intellectual benefits of knowledge of the brain and will ultimately benefit medicine".

But the fact remains: together with neurotechnologies for medicine creates neuroguide. This is undeniable. It is unknown what will be the weapon when it appears, and in whose hands will find themselves. Of course, people don't want to be afraid that their consciousness will now be under someone else's control. Today it seems a distant fantasy nightmare scenario, in which new technologies transform the human brain into an instrument, more sensitive than sniffer explosives search dog, controlled like a drone, wide open and vulnerable as an open safe. However, we must ask ourselves whether enough is being done to take control of the deadly weapon of a new generation before it is too late?

Tim Requarth



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