- Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense
Jonathan Moreno is a noted bioethicist who has written extensively on cutting edge medical ethics and biodefense issues for scholars and the general public. His Undue Risk: Secret State Experiments on Humans (2000) was a compelling historical narrative of American military-medical research efforts in the twentieth century, triggered by his tenure as a senior staff member on President Clinton's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. Moreno now offers in Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense another gripping narrative exploring neuroscientific projects and experiments within the national security context. An overview and the first comprehensive foray into the subject, Moreno focuses on the programs of the federal government's science agency most involved in the funding and coordination of neuroscience and national security projects, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Moreno brings to this work considerable expertise, insight, and experience from serving on a number of federal advisory committees and as a biodefense advisor for the Department of Homeland Security.
Moreno provides something of interest for a variety of groups, including historians, philosophers, and public policy wonks. Deftly weaving historical context, program descriptions based on interviews and public information, and probing ethical questions, he explores the panoply of DARPA's in-house programs as well as a number of university brain research efforts funded by DARPA. He first provides a general description of DARPA and the history of the U.S. scientific-state security relationship born out of the World War II military-industrial-scientific complex and subsequent Cold War fears and threats. Moreno notes that after the Cold War economic objectives rose to the forefront of scientific-state security research rather than military objectives, resulting in the potential of "dual use" research for both the civilian and military sectors. The description of this dual use research runs like a thread throughout his book and highlights the opportunities [End Page 614] available for medical therapies and other civilian uses as well as military purposes. For example, DARPA's Human Assisted Neural Devices program (HAND), a human brain-machine interaction program for military use, also has the potential for noninvasive neurological control of devices by paralyzed patients and amputees. Moreno also suggests that an approach to enhance cognitive abilities for soldiers by electrically stimulating select brain centers may also be of benefit to patients with paralysis and stroke and dementia patients. Another DARPA project, the Preventing Sleep Deprivation program (PSD), highly important for military reconnaissance and search and rescue missions, may also resolve sleep deprivation issues experienced by commercial airline pilots and truck drivers. He acknowledges that many of these brain research programs sound like science fiction and given technical difficulties will take years to bear fruit. However, what is revealing is the current extent of these research efforts, the successes achieved so far, and the possibilities of combining neuroscientific technologies with other emerging technologies such as nanotechnology and genetic engineering to enhance warfighter capabilities on the battlefield.
Moreno also guides the reader through a short primer on neuroanatomy and provides an analytical backdrop of distinctions between concepts of the brain and the mind within the historical context of military psychological operations. He builds on this analysis by describing the promising functional use of magnetic resonance imaging technology in providing clues of a soldier's attitude and stress and fear levels in combat. This exploration is helpful in understanding the underlying basis for neuroscientific research and again points out its dual use capabilities. An examination of neuroscience-based non-lethal warfighting options, such as the use of odors, acoustical devices, and optical equipment to disable enemy combatants, follows.
But within the description of this dizzying array of research programs and soldier-enhancing technologies, Moreno also raises cautionary ethical flags. Bioethicists, scientists, and policy-makers currently grapple with many of these issues in civilian medical and scientific contexts as they relate to endeavors in genetic engineering, human stem cell research, and nanotechnology. Issues such as how far we should go...