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Neurotechnology and International Security

Neurotechnology and International Security

Introduction

Today, we're going to examine the cutting-edge space of neurotechnology and its potential impact on international security. We'll be exploring the emergence of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) and how they might shape the future of both commercial and military sectors in the United States and China.

Unraveling the Human Brain

The human brain, with its intricate network of approximately 100 billion interconnected neurons, is a marvel of nature. It not only enables our higher cognitive abilities but also plays a crucial role in hosting various clinical disorders. Understanding the complexities of the human brain is a monumental scientific challenge, and recent advances in neuroscience have allowed the development of technologies that can read and manipulate brain activity, to a limited extent.

The Rise of Brain Projects

In the past decade, countries such as the United States and China, along with several other international actors, have embarked on ambitious neuroscience research projects. These initiatives aim to unlock the secrets of the human brain and develop groundbreaking technologies to understand and influence brain functions. The U.S. BRAIN Initiative and the China Brain Project are at the forefront of this endeavor, with goals ranging from accelerating basic research to developing technologies for diagnosing and treating brain disorders.

The Dual-Use Potential of BCIs

While the primary focus of these brain projects has been on clinical applications, the potential for BCIs to be used in both commercial and military domains cannot be overlooked. BCIs, which facilitate communication between the brain and external devices, have the potential to not only treat neurological disorders but also enhance the capabilities of healthy individuals. This dual-use potential raises significant implications for society, public health, and national security.

Predicting the Future

Anticipating the adoption of neurotechnologies in both commercial and military sectors is crucial from a national security standpoint. A research framework has been developed to predict the dissemination of BCIs in the United States and China. Interestingly, despite starting its project later and with less funding, China is poised for earlier adoption due to other advantages. This neuroscientific arms-race raises national security concerns, including challenges in setting international ethical and legal norms for BCI use, especially in wartime environments, and concerns regarding data privacy for citizens using technology developed by foreign entities.

Neurotechnology and International Security

The intersection of neurotechnology and international security is a topic of growing importance. The cognitive sciences, which delve into the study of human cognition, are intricately linked to social processes, including politics and security. The potential impact of neuroscientific advancements on conflict and cooperation has been recognized by international scientific bodies and policymakers. The operationalization of scientific discoveries into commercial or deployable neurotechnologies presents significant considerations for policymakers and scholars in the realm of international security.

Historical Context and Future Implications

The relationship between technology and conflict has a deep-rooted history across the social sciences. From the impact of nuclear weapons to the intersection of science, technology, and armed conflict, the influence of technological advancements on global power dynamics has been a subject of extensive study. The translation of basic neuroscience research into applied and commercial technology holds particular relevance in the context of security studies, as it explores how concepts from neuroscience can be leveraged in a security context.

The Nexus of Technology and Military Affairs

For strategists and scholars of military affairs, the nexus between technology and military operations directly influences the propensity for conflict, the outcomes of war, and the efficacy of security cooperation and coercive statecraft. Discussions surrounding network-centric warfare and the impact of emerging technologies on military affairs underscore the critical role of technology in shaping the future landscape of international security.

The emergence of BCIs and other neurotechnologies has the potential to reshape the dynamics of global security. The implications of these advancements extend beyond the realms of healthcare and technology, permeating into the fabric of international relations and security policies. As we continue to unravel the mysteries of the human brain, it's essential to navigate the ethical, legal, and security challenges posed by the dual-use potential of neurotechnologies.


Citation: Margaret Kosal and Joy Putney, “Neurotechnology and International Security: Predicting Commercial and Military Adoption of Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) in the United States and China,” Politics and the Life Sciences 42, no. 1 (April 2023): 81–103, https://doi.org/10.1017/pls.2022.2.

Glossary

  • Neurotechnology: Neurotechnology refers to the field of technology that is focused on the study and application of the brain and nervous system.

  • Cognitive Sciences: The study of the precise nature of different mental tasks and the operations of the brain that enable them to be performed, engaging branches of psychology, computer science, philosophy, and linguistics. (Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2d ed) NLM Medical Subject Headings (https://openmd.com/search?q=Cognitive+Sciences)

  • Data Privacy: Data privacy pertains to the protection of individuals' personal information and data from unauthorized access and usage.