The Strange Case of the Pentagon and Futuristic Neurotechnology
Research on connecting the human brain more seamlessly to machines could prove controversial.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (darpa) created the Biological Technologies Office in 2014, and the office has spent the last four years doing strange and ethically eyebrow-raising research into neurotechnology. The office, which is charged with delving into new applications for healing and enhancing the human body, has initiated a variety of research projects all related to the question of whether a human brain can communicate with physical technologies wordlessly and without use of the body.
Critics suspect that this research, the ultimate intent of which is not completely clear, is done in the interest of creating “super soldiers,” or at least enabling military personnel to more efficiently operate machinery. Geoff Ling, who was previously director of the Biological Technologies Office, told The Atlantic that the research has to do with “increasing a human’s capability.” As Ling described the office’s mission, “What darpa does is we provide a fundamental tool so that other people can take those tools and do great things with them that we’re not even thinking about.”
The applications of the research are where the waiting controversies lie. Darpa creates technologies that other companies and agencies then deploy. “If a brain can control a robot that looks like a hand, why can’t it control a robot that looks like a snake?… I mean, somebody will find an application for that,” Ling told The Atlantic, speculating about what one day might be done with developing neurotechnology.
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