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Researchers stress need for neurotechnologies to protect the mental dimension of individuals and groups, especially mental privacy and integrity

Image: Ars Elec­tron­i­ca | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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From Health­care to War­fare: How to Reg­u­late Brain Tech­nol­o­gy (Uni­ver­si­ty of Basel press release):

The term “dual-use” refers to tech­nol­o­gy that can be used for both ben­e­fi­cial (i.e., med­ical) and harm­ful (i.e., mil­i­tary of ter­ror­is­tic) aims. Until recent­ly, most dual-use tech­nol­o­gy emerged espe­cial­ly in virol­o­gy and bac­te­ri­ol­o­gy. In the last years, how­ev­er, mil­i­tary-fund­ed research has entered the domain of neu­ro­science and neu­rotech­nol­o­gy.

This has result­ed in a rapid growth in brain tech­nol­o­gy pro­to­types aimed at mod­u­lat­ing the emo­tions, cog­ni­tion, and behav­ior of sol­diers. These include neu­rotech­no­log­i­cal appli­ca­tions for decep­tion detec­tion and inter­ro­ga­tion as well as brain-com­put­er inter­faces for mil­i­tary pur­pos­es.

Three bioethi­cists from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Basel have now argue in a study that an out­right ban on mil­i­tary neu­rotech­nol­o­gy would not be eth­i­cal­ly jus­ti­fied. …With the aging of the world pop­u­la­tion and the con­se­quent preva­lence of brain dis­or­ders, they argue, there is an increas­ing need for invest­ment in neu­rotech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion.

For this rea­son, they have devel­oped a frame­work con­cept for biosafe­ty that is specif­i­cal­ly geared to neu­rotech­nol­o­gy. It pro­pos­es neu­ro-spe­cif­ic reg­u­la­to­ry approach­es as well as a code of con­duct for mil­i­tary research and calls for aware­ness-rais­ing mea­sures in the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty.

«Our frame­work pos­tu­lates the devel­op­ment of reg­u­la­tions and eth­i­cal guide­lines aimed at pro­tect­ing the men­tal dimen­sion of indi­vid­u­als and groups, espe­cial­ly their men­tal pri­va­cy and integri­ty,» says first author Mar­cel­lo Ien­ca from the Insti­tute for Bio­med­ical Ethics at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Basel. In addi­tion, the researchers call for rais­ing aware­ness and start­ing a debate about these con­tro­ver­sial issues.”

The Study

From Health­care to War­fare and Reverse: How Should We Reg­u­late Dual-Use Neu­rotech­nol­o­gy? (Neu­ron)

Sum­ma­ry: Recent advances in mil­i­tary-fund­ed neu­rotech­nol­o­gy and nov­el oppor­tu­ni­ties for mis­us­ing neu­rode­vices show that the prob­lem of dual use is inher­ent to neu­ro­science. This paper dis­cuss­es how the neu­ro­science com­mu­ni­ty should respond to these dilem­mas and delin­eates a neu­ro­science-spe­cif­ic biose­cu­ri­ty frame­work. This neu­rose­cu­ri­ty frame­work involves cal­i­brat­ed reg­u­la­tion, (neuro)ethical guide­lines, and aware­ness-rais­ing activ­i­ties with­in the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty.

The Study in Context

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