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The Royal Society has published a downloadable report on the potential military and law enforcement applications arising from key advances in neuroscience. Drones guided by thought control raise the possibility of machines instead of men being blamed for military accidents and war crimesy.

Fast-moving advances in neuroscience mean that pilotless attack planes controlled by an operator’s thoughts may be a reality in the “not too distant future”, according to Professor Rod Flower. But he warned that such technology would take ethical concerns over the use of drone weapons to a new level.

The biochemist Prof Flower chaired a Royal Society working group looking at the potential military impact of advances in neuroscience. In their report, one of a series from the Royal Society looking at the field of neuroscience, the experts call on the UK government to be as “transparent as possible” about research into military and law enforcement applications.

They also urge scientists to be aware that their work could be used to harm as well as help and heal. One such area of cutting edge research involves the development of “mind-control” systems to aid people severely disabled by illness or injury.

Interview with Professor Rod Flower FRS, chair of the Royal Society’s new report:

Summarizing the downloadable report, its key findings are the following:

  • Neuroscientists have a responsibility to be aware from an early stage of their training that knowledge and technologies used for beneficial purposes can also be misused for harmful purposes.
  • The development of an absolutely safe incapacitating chemical weapon is not technically feasible because of inherent variables such as the size, health and age of the target population, secondary injury and the requirement for medical aftercare.
  • Countries adhering to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) should address the definition and status of incapacitating chemical weapons under the CWC at the next Review Conference in 2013.