The Connection : A Surgeon and a Soldier


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In , 60 Minutes showed a paralyzed woman named Jan Scheuermann feeding herself a bar of chocolate using a robotic arm that she manipulated by means of a brain implant. The goals and values of its research shift and evolve in the manner of a strange, half-conscious shell game. The line between healing and enhancement blurs.

A year and a half after the video of Jan Scheuermann feeding herself chocolate was shown on television, DARPA made another video of her, in which her brain-computer interface was connected to an F flight simulator , and she was flying the airplane.

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New and improved soldiers are necessary and desirable for DARPA, but they are just the window-display version of the life that lies ahead. Researchers performed surgery on 11 rats. After the rats recovered from surgery, they were separated into two groups, and they spent a period of weeks getting educated, though one group was educated more than the other.

The less educated group learned a simple task, involving how to procure a droplet of water. The more educated group learned a complex version of that same task—to procure the water, these rats had to persistently poke levers with their nose despite confounding delays in the delivery of the water droplet.

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They were able to execute that full thing. I think you could. Then electrodes fed back those recordings of neuronal activity into the same circuits as a form of reinforcement. The result, in both cases, was significantly improved memory recall. Doug Weber, a neural engineer at the University of Pittsburgh who recently finished a four-year term as a DARPA program manager, working with Sanchez, is a memory-transfer skeptic. Born in Wisconsin, he has the demeanor of a sitcom dad: not too polished, not too rumpled.

The most intractable problem is blood leakage. And certainly there is clear modular organization in the brain. All information is everywhere all the time, right? Peripheral nerves, by contrast, conduct signals in a more modular fashion. The biggest, longest peripheral nerve is the vagus. It connects the brain with the heart, the lungs, the digestive tract, and more. Weber believes that it may be possible to stimulate the vagus nerve in ways that enhance the process of learning—not by transferring experiential memories, but by sharpening the facility for certain skills.

Teams of researchers at seven universities are investigating whether vagal-nerve stimulation can enhance learning in three areas: marksmanship, surveillance and reconnaissance, and language. DARPA officials refer to the potential consequences of neurotechnology by invoking the acronym elsi , a term of art devised for the Human Genome Project. Hyman is also a former head of the National Institute of Mental Health.

Weber and a DARPA spokesperson related some of the questions the researchers asked in their ethics discussion: Who will decide how this technology gets used? Would a superior be able to force subordinates to use it? Will genetic tests be able to determine how responsive someone would be to targeted neuroplasticity training? Would such tests be voluntary or mandatory? Could the results of such tests lead to discrimination in school admissions or employment? What if the technology affects moral or emotional cognition—our ability to tell right from wrong or to control our own behavior?

If we were really building an autonomous-weapons system, why would we publish it in the open literature for our adversaries to read?

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We hid nothing. We hid not a thing. And you know what? We did it for the world. I started to say that publishing this research would not prevent its being misused.

But the terms use and misuse overlook a bigger issue at the core of any meaningful neurotechnology-ethics discussion. Will an enhanced human being—a human being possessing a neural interface with a computer—still be human, as people have experienced humanity through all of time? Or will such a person be a different sort of creature? The U. If I gave you a third ear that could hear at a very high frequency, like a bat or like a snake, then you would incorporate all those senses into your experience and you would use that to your advantage.

Enhancing the senses to gain superior advantage—this language suggests weaponry. Judging by what he said next, however, the number of things that DARPA is thinking about far exceeds what it typically talks about in public.

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I mean, somebody will find an application for that. But in my world, with their brain now having a direct interface with that glob, that glob is the embodiment of them. In , during the administration of President George H.


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Fields lost his job because, according to contemporary news accounts, he intentionally fostered business development with some Silicon Valley companies, and White House officials deemed that inappropriate. Since the administration of the second President Bush, however, such sensitivities have faded. She has since left Facebook. Sanchez blushes easily, and he breaks eye contact when he is uncomfortable, but he did not look away when he heard his name mentioned in such company.

Did any member of Congress strike him as having good ideas about legal or regulatory structures that might shape an emerging neural-interface industry? What will happen, he said, is that scientists at universities will sell their discoveries or create start-ups. And that process—that day-to-day development—will ultimately guide where these technologies go. What Could Go Wrong?

During his trip to Asia over the past few days, however, Trump has made that tendency unavoidable, offering blusteringly confident answers to questions on topics he clearly knows nothing about. The philosopher Harry Frankfurt offers an earthy, useful description of this mode of Trump speech in his essay On Bullshit :. He is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false.

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The Pentagon’s Push to Program Soldiers’ Brains

His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose. There are the vital signs: heart and respiratory rates and body temperature. Sometimes blood pressure. These are critical in emergencies.

But in day-to-day life, the normalcy of those numbers is expected. The most common numbers are age and body weight. This number has come to be massively consequential in the lives of millions of people, and to influence the movement of billions of dollars.

Five years ago, the flight vanished into the Indian Ocean. Officials on land know more about why than they dare to say. At a. The designator for Malaysia Airlines is MH. The flight number was Fariq Hamid, the first officer, was flying the airplane. He was 27 years old. This was a training flight for him, the last one; he would soon be fully certified. His trainer was the pilot in command, a man named Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who at 53 was one of the most senior captains at Malaysia Airlines. In Malaysian style, he was known by his first name, Zaharie. He was married and had three adult children.

He lived in a gated development. He owned two houses.

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In his first house he had installed an elaborate Microsoft flight simulator. These words came from an elderly woman sitting behind me on a late-night flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D. The plane was dark and quiet. I listened with morbid fascination, forming an image of the man in my head as they talked. I imagined someone who had worked hard all his life in relative obscurity, someone with unfulfilled dreams—perhaps of the degree he never attained, the career he never pursued, the company he never started. He is using the office he holds to advance his extraordinary lifetime project of assigning unchecked power to the president.

Donald Trump disdains, more than anything else, the limitations of checks and balances on his power. President Trump and his supporters find community by rejoicing in the suffering of those they hate and fear. Amid all the stories of perseverance, tragedy, and unlikely triumph are the artifacts of inhumanity and barbarism: the child-size slave shackles, the bright red robes of the wizards of the Ku Klux Klan, the recordings of civil-rights protesters being brutalized by police.

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The artifacts that persist in my memory, the way a bright flash does when you close your eyes, are the photographs of lynchings. A cancer patient wants the world to understand that bad things can happen to good people. Military physicians have played a role in nearly every major modern medical advancement. In the early s, Surgeon General Joseph Lovell studied the connections between weather patterns and disease. In , Maj. Walter Reed headed up the Yellow Fever Commission in Cuba, discovering that mosquitoes carried the disease and saving countless lives.

Harry George Armstrong, along with Dr.

The Connection : A Surgeon and a Soldier The Connection : A Surgeon and a Soldier
The Connection : A Surgeon and a Soldier The Connection : A Surgeon and a Soldier
The Connection : A Surgeon and a Soldier The Connection : A Surgeon and a Soldier
The Connection : A Surgeon and a Soldier The Connection : A Surgeon and a Soldier
The Connection : A Surgeon and a Soldier The Connection : A Surgeon and a Soldier

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