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Posted: Jan 02, 2013
New report on military human enhancements tackles ethical dilemmas
(Nanowerk News) The Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) has released a 100+ page report on military human enhancements. Where the use of other novel technologies, such as robotics and cyberweapons, have caught society and policymakers by surprise, this new report anticipates ethical and policy dilemmas ahead of science and technology.
Funded by the Greenwall Foundation, “Enhanced Warfighters: Risk, Ethics, and Policy” (pdf) is the first study to examine a wide array of practical issues arising from military enhancements. Even philosophical questions here—such as how to define enhancement, and whether enhancements technically are biological weapons—have real-world policy impacts, such as determining which international humanitarian laws apply.
The technologies range from current use of cognitive stimulants (including amphetamines or “go pills”) to future use of exoskeletons and neural computer chips. For example, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has been funding research to change human metabolism (so that warfighters won’t need to eat or sleep) and synthetic telepathy (so that warfighters can communicate by thought alone).
“These are game-changing technologies in war, but dangerously little has been said about ethics, law, or policy,” said Dr. Patrick Lin, lead author of the report at Cal Poly. “As we’re seeing in the debate on military drones, it’s crucial that we consider policy, law, and ethics before these technologies take off, not after the genie has left the bottle.”