Neurotechnology Applied to the Military Industry: The Invisible War That Resides in Our Homes

Saturday, 17 de August de 2019

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“New technology is not good or evil in and of itself. It's all about how people choose to use it.”


- David Wong

It is common in our daily lives to hear or read how studies of the human brain or mind have helped to identify, unravel and even treat illness or mental conditions. Neuroscience may have been born as a great tool of human knowledge for neurosurgeons to operate and treat their patients, but today this science penetrates other layers and applications of human knowledge.

You can find neuroscience applied to marketing (neuromarketing), sports, human resources, alternative therapies, artificial intelligence and, growing so fast as neuroscience it had, ties in new creative forms how to create its neurotechnologies.


One market which neurotechnologies are being applied and deeply impacting our lives is the military industry


Narrow spread in the media, how to generate neurosecurity and neuroweapons has been a strategic area of governments and military institutions for what they call modern warfare.


What once the power was about dominating resources, lands, technology races, the economic market, it is now clear to some institutions in the world that the frontier of power and armed conflict is about human minds. Master ideologies, cultures, minds will lead to controls of lands, resources, markets, politics and technological innovations. This is because humans, their minds, that generate niches and regulate, in a way decentralized, every aspect of power on the planet.


Advances in neuroengineering have enabled a generation of tools such as neuroimaging, EEG, neurostimulators, neuroprosthetic devices, neurogenetics, and pharmacological agents that empower users to understand, define, predict, control human cognitions, emotions, and behaviors [1].


The core of military applications lies in the idea that neurotechnologies can affect human nature. However, they are seen as groups rather than treating the human as individual. It take into consideration that they generate cultures in which groups have characteristics, level of knowledge, attitudes, values and behaviors in a given space, time and / or virtual niche that characterize biopsychosocial dimensions and functionalization in each group [2].


Researcher James Giordano speaks quite appropriately about the subject in his presentation:

Neuroweapons or neurosecurity approaches should be able to provide techniques and tools that are designed to access,  assess, and target neurological substrates that can employ and affect basic human cognitions, emotions, and behaviors for aggression, conflict, and warfare.


Examples of these technologies are broad, in a small sample it is possible to cite how to obtain better learning and military intelligence [3], new ways of acting in battle spaces through neurostimulation on soldiers using their helmets as hardware to improve their attention and vigilance in strategies which they can’t sleep [4], the use of ultrasound waves to cause mental confusion and discomfort in soldiers on duty [5,6,7] and neuromicrobiological agents that cause illness or induce tired behavior [8].




In this sense I will focus on a line of development that reaches our homes and is being a worldwide phenomenon, the fake news and information with targeted emotional charges. You must be wondering…


Are fakenews a neuroweapon ? How can virtual news be considered a weapon?


Imagine that every organ in your body has an essential function. The brain (nervous system) is responsible for receiving, processing and sending signals throughout your body. Therefore it is a kind of biological computer, its essence is computing, processing its biological data.


So we can infer that any information that can cross the human senses is able to influence the nervous system because what is it, essentiality and functionality, information processing.


An innocent reading, such as reading "depression," or viewing images with human expressions in this state recruits into your brain networks of neurons responsible for this meaning, but it also makes you feel emotionally even if you are not conscious. This happens for a number of reasons known in science as affective neuroscience [9]. One of the main reasons is the cellular mirroring mechanisms for you to have empathy, to understand the other is necessary to mirror part of this reality in your biology, to your consciousness and self [10].


Thus knowing this, let's go to the following scenario:

Imagine you logged to facebook or twitter and saw a simple reading that woke you up or reminded you of states of hatred, aggression and intolerance. In your nervous system what is happening is the recruitment of evolutionarily old limbic systems, what was once called the reptilian brain. This region is highly associated with instinct and passionate responses.


There are regions in the brain, especially prefrontal cortex, that have evolved to inhibit limbic processes. The utility is for more logical decisions to stand out from instinctive and passionate responses. However, there are situations where the reverse is possible in humans, which is the theoretical basis for how neuromarketing affects its consumers to make decisions based on emotion [11].


When your nervous system is feeded several times a day by recruiting archaic pathways of hatred, aggression and intolerance (such as fakenews), your logical and decision-making capacity is reduced and you are more susceptible not only to instinctive and more passionate acts, but more open to receiving new information that goes against logic [12].


Remember, reality is just an illusion of the mind, all comes from what it perceives and reconstructs.



In such a way around the world that political campaigns have been strategically cracked. Regardless of polarization, it is possible to make changes in human thinking ecologies shifting their position, left becomes right, or right becomes left. Netflix has released a documentary titled “The great hack”   relating the context and conflict that the use of information like fakenews has controlled in the electoral process of many countries.


So you don't need to have a chip working inside your brain for the mind-hacking scenario to be possible, this is happening on many levels of social relationships and they are technologies that have been around for millennia.


Just because you walk into a store and let the salesperson explore your motives, your reasons, and perceive your bodily responses like looking, facial microexpressions, and body movements, is enough information for him to put together a speech strategy or approach tactics to change your thinking and convince you to buy by logic reasons or for passionate when the buyer is found by you attractive or arouses some emotion of closeness.



In the end, the important lesson for our awareness is that not only do we need to cultivate security in an aspect of material objects, such as cell phones in dangerous places in cities, but also in mental attributes, the so-called neurosecurity. It is necessary to develop a whole arsenal of new habits and care in how we deal with information, whether producing, receiving or just acknowledging.


“Watch less news and read more books instead...Perhaps it’s time we realize that consuming more news about the world around us is not the way to improve it (or ourselves), personally or politically."


- Ryan Holiday


You need to be mindful of changing your traditions as technologies develop wildly. These new habits are unknown waters, unexplored by our predecessors and require our attention to develop them. Remember, this is not something we will passively get because they already control our passivity, involuntary responses, our instincts when chaos sets in.


“If you want to fundamentally change society, you must first destroy it. And only after you destroy it can you reshape the pieces according to your vision of a new society. ”


- The great hack, Netflix




[1] Advances in neurotechnology: Ethical, Legal, and social issues; James Giordano,2014.
[2] Neurotechnology, Global Relations, and National Security: Shifting Contexts and Neuroethical Demands; James Giordano,2014.

[3] Neural Systems in Intelligence and Training Applications: Kay M. Stanney, Kelly S. Hale, Sven Fuchs, Angela (Baskin) Carpenter, and Chris Berka; Synesis: A Journal of Science, Technology, Ethics, and Policy; 2011.

[4] Brain Brinksmanship: Devising Neuroweapons Looking at Battlespace, Doctrine, and Strategy; Robert McCreight; 2015.

[5] Neurotechnology in National Security and Defense: Practical Considerations, Neuroethical Concerns (Advances in Neurotechnology), 1st edition; 2014.

[6] Mystery of sonic weapon attacks at US embassy in Cuba deepens; The Guardian; 2016.

[7] Was It an Invisible Attack on U.S. Diplomats, or Something Stranger?; Dan Hurley; The New York Times; 2019.

[8]  “NEURINT” and Neuroweapons Neurotechnologies in National Intelligence and Defense; Rachel Wurzman and James Giordano; 2011.

[9]; acessado em 2019.

[10] What Affective Neuroscience Means for Science Of Consciousness; Leonardo Ferreira Almada, Alfredo Pereira, Jr., and Claudia Carrara-Augustenborg; 2013. 

[11] The Potential of Neuromarketing as a Marketing Tool; Vivian Alexandra Roth; 2013.

[12] Emotion and Decision Making: Multiple Modulatory Neural Circuits; Elizabeth A. Phelps, Karolina M. Lempert, and Peter Sokol-Hessner;Annual Review of Neuroscience; 2014.

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Jackson Cionek


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