Air Force Wants Neuroweapons to Overwhelm Enemy Minds

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Noah Shachtman
Wired

It sounds like something a wild-eyed basement-dweller would come up with, after he complained about the fit of his tinfoil hat. But military bureaucrats really are asking scientists to help them “degrade enemy performance” by attacking the brain’s “chemical pathway[s].” Let the conspiracy theories begin.

Late last month, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing revamped a call for research proposals examining “Advances in Bioscience for Airmen Performance.” It’s a six-year, $49 million effort to deploy extreme neuroscience and biotechnology in the service of warfare.

One suggested research thrust is to use “external stimulant technology to enable the airman to maintain focus on aerospace tasks and to receive and process greater amounts of operationally relevant information.” (Something other than modafinil, I guess.) Another asks scientists to look into “fus[ing] multiple human sensing modalities” to develop the “capability for Special Operations Forces to rapidly identify human-borne threats.” No, this is not a page from The Men Who Stare at Goats.

But perhaps the oddest, and most disturbing, of the program’s many suggested directions is the one that notes: “Conversely, the chemical pathway area could include methods to degrade enemy performance and artificially overwhelm enemy cognitive capabilities.” That’s right: the Air Force wants a way to fry foes’ minds — or at least make ‘em a little dumber.

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