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University of Basel

18 January 2018

From Healthcare to Warfare: How to Regulate Brain Technology

brain, computer, interface, neurotechnology
Is it legitimate to conduct military research on neurotechnology? (Image: Ars Electronica | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Ethicists from the University of Basel have outlined a new biosecurity framework specific to neurotechnology. While the researchers declare an outright ban of dual-use technology ethically unjustified, they call for regulations aimed at protecting the mental privacy and integrity of humans. The journal Neuron has published the study.

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.

Neurotechnology and ethical issues

This military research has raised concern about the risks associated with the weaponization of neurotechnology, sparking a debate about controversial questions: Is it legitimate to conduct military research on brain technology? And how should policy-makers regulate dual-use neurotechnology?

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