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Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies 1 The Big Picture: Bridging the Science and Technology for the Decision Maker INTRODUCTION AND STUDY ORIGIN This is the third report in a series produced under the auspices of the National Research Council (NRC) Standing Committee on Technology Insight—Gauge, Evaluate, and Review (TIGER) and sponsored by the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA’s) Defense Warning Office (DWO) (NRC, 2006, 2008). As did the two previous reports, the current report resulted from discussions between the TIGER standing committee and components of the U.S. intelligence community (IC). The overall series is intended to assist the IC in identifying global technology trends that may affect future U.S. warfighting capabilities. An earlier report, Avoiding Surprise in an Era of Global Technology Advances (NRC, 2005), provided the IC with a methodology to gauge the potential implications of emerging technologies. The methodology has been widely accepted as a new tool for assessing potential future national security threats from these emerging technologies. As part of a continuing relationship with the TIGER standing committee, the IC identified neurophysiological research, and especially technologies associated with that research—the study and integration of cognitive neuroscience, psychology, sociology, and neuropsychopharmacology—as a field that could pose strategic implications for U.S. national security.1 Box 1-1 provides the study statement of task. 1 The label “cognitive” in the title and elsewhere in this report is used in the broad sense. Unless otherwise noted, it refers to the cognitive sciences in general and comprises psychological and physiological processes underlying human information processing, emotion, motivation, social influence, and development. It includes contributions from all directly related disciplines, including the behavioral and social sciences, neurogenetics, proteomics, philosophy, mathematics, computer science, and linguistics. The label “neuroscience” is also used in the broad sense (unless specified otherwise) to
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Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies Box 1-1 Statement of Task In an effort to better understand, and therefore forecast, the international neurophysiological and cognitive/neural science research landscape and its potential to affect U.S. future national security, an ad hoc NRC study committee will: Review the current state of today's work in neurophysiology and cognitive/ neural science, select the manners in which this work could be of interest to national security professionals, and trends for future warfighting applications that may warrant continued analysis and tracking by the intelligence community, Use the technology warning methodology developed in the 2005 National Research Council report Avoiding Surprise in an Era of Global Technology Advances (NRC, 2005) to assess the health, rate of development, and degree of innovation in the neurophysiology and cognitive/neural science research areas of interest, and Amplify the technology warning methodology to illustrate the ways in which neurophysiological and cognitive/neural research conducted in selected countries may affect committee assessments. Advances in neurophysiological research could lead to asymmetric advantages in detecting psychological states, including deception, and the pharmaceutical enhancement or degradation of individual and group performance, as well as the development of human-machine interfaces, any or all of which could give an individual a performance edge. Military and intelligence planners are uncertain about the likely scale, scope, and timing of advances in neurophysiological research and technologies that might affect future U.S warfighting capabilities. For good or for ill, an ability to better understand the capabilities of the body and brain will require new research that could be exploited for gathering intelligence, military operations, information management, public safety, and forensics. In developing a framework for assessing the applicable trends in physiological research, this study focuses on how such a framework might be used by IC analysts tasked to predict the behaviors of individuals and groups, including evaluation of the kinds of data available to them. The principal goal of the methodology used in this study was to permit IC analysts to objectively evaluate whether an institution, region, or country merits further investigation and, where possible, to specify the cognitive-behavioral and neuroscience discipline(s) involved. Committee members were selected who would be familiar in general terms with the global cognitive-behavioral research landscape and be knowledgeable about the refer to processes that take place in systems such as the central nervous system (i.e., the brain and the spinal cord), and the somatic, autonomic, and neuroendocrine systems.
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Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies disciplines involved. Efforts were made to correlate deep scientific understanding of current and projected research results with the possibility of disruptive technologies arising from those results. Worldwide interest in the cognitive-behavioral sciences (the study and integration of neuroscience, psychology, and sociology) is increasing as new technologies emerge. Some of the most exciting of these technologies access the brain using noncontact, noninvasive breakthroughs at the nexus of physics, imaging processing, and neurophysiology. However, claims reported in the media are often rife with hyperbole, ignoring well-known scientific caveats and including overstatements not based on peer-reviewed and replicated findings. While new technologies promise major social, communications, and, especially, medical breakthroughs, they are also pushing the envelope of ethics, privacy, and policy. Understandably, policy makers, military and intelligence professionals, and planners are confused about whether the advances will be as great as has been predicted. To the extent that these advances can be realized, they will be used to improve the human condition. A better understanding of the capabilities of the brain will expose opportunities for applied research that could be exploited for legal and forensic, military and police/public safety, and information and intelligence purposes. Some research possibilities are being highlighted and may even be overtaking traditional academic research; others are being described in ways that may overstate their promise. Certain work, especially that being conducted in foreign laboratories, may parallel or even outstrip the traditional, peer-reviewed work being done in the West. This could lead to asymmetric advances outside traditional science, perhaps in the detection of deception, in the modification, enhancement, or degradation of individual and group performance, and in man–machine interfaces that amplify human capabilities.2 Though the United States and Western Europe have historically led the world in cognitive neuroscience research, programs in other countries are clearly advancing rapidly as the result of increased international collaboration and financial support. Many of these countries are believed to be directing their research resources toward certain niche areas, such as unconventional uses for pharmaceuticals; real-time brain-machine interfaces; far-field and noncontact brain imaging technologies; and fusion of advanced software and processing applied to nonmedical applications. The IC needs to survey the factors that will shape development of international cognitive-behavioral neuroscience research in all these contexts. 2 The committee believes that traditional science is generally understood to consist of testing hypotheses in nature. One challenge the committee felt strongly about was the need for the military and the IC to comprehend hypothesis generation, at the same time understanding that not all countries approach science like the United States. Moreover, emergent research often turns out to be unpredictable—that is, unplanned discoveries reveal new hypotheses (hypothesis generation), which in turn provide new knowledge. In the future, the IC will need to watch nontraditional countries using nontraditional methods of discovery.
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Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies However, it needs to observe the resulting landscape from high up to obtain a clearer understanding of emergent technologies that might have unethical applications. The committee was primarily interested in identifying trends in today’s cognitive-behavioral neuroscience research landscape that will anticipate the state of international research in the next two decades. This process of identification and extrapolation is grounded in the current state of the science in selected areas of cognitive neuroscience research. In developing the methodology, the committee considered the end user (analysts and predictors of the behaviors of individuals and groups), the data available to them, the desired output, and the unique aspects (if relevant) of neuroscience research. Intelligence analysts were available for consultation throughout the project in order to ensure that the methodology was realistically applied, given the limitations of the data sets. WHAT DECISION MAKERS WANT TO KNOW In the next two decades, the questions being asked by decision makers are likely to be similar to what they are now, although the answers may be different. The projection of power, deterrence, and achieving military objectives all have the same need for accurate information. One can imagine high-level Department of Defense (DOD) personnel asking the IC and the neuroscience community specific questions, the answers to which may have a variety of applications, such as the following: Can cognitive states and intentions of persons of interest be read? Decision makers might ask members of the IC a question such as this: “How can I know what someone knows?” In situations where it is important to win the hearts and minds of the local populace, it would be useful to know if they understand the information being given them. Do they believe it? As information is analyzed before making an important decision, particularly in situations that may call for risking American lives, IC neuroscientists will surely be asked how one can know if someone is telling the truth. Can cognitive capacities be enhanced? In the future, as soldiers prepare for conflict, DOD may call on the neurophysiology community to assist in maintaining the warfighting superiority of the United States. Commanders will ask how they can make their troops learn faster. How can they increase the speed with which their soldiers process large amounts of information quickly and accurately? How can the neurosciences help soldiers to make the correct decision in the difficult environment of wartime operations? Other abilities of a soldier that might need enhancement could include transferring information and ensuring its precision. Can cognitive states and intentions be controlled? Although conflict has many aspects, one that warfighters and policy makers often talk about is the motivation to fight, which undoubtedly has its origins in the brain and is reflected in
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Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies peripheral neurophysiological processes. So, one question would be “How can we disrupt the enemy’s motivation to fight? Other questions raised by controlling the mind: How can we make people trust us more? What if we could help the brain to remove fear or pain? Is there a way to make the enemy obey our commands? Can cognitive states be used to drive devices? This general question leads to specific questions about applications for limb and organ control, immobilization, and repair. Applications, both positive and negative, may also be imagined for interfering with the mind to enhance the senses of hearing, sight, smell, and touch. Alternatively, physical agents such as white noise could be used to impair one or more senses. In the area of neuropsychopharmacology, drugs could target specific sensory receptors, perhaps to enhance, perhaps to interfere. REPORT STRUCTURE This chapter provides an overview of cognitive-behavioral neuroscience research and poses a series of questions that decision makers will probably want answered. Chapter 2 provides detail on areas of interest selected by the committee. Chapter 3 builds on Chapter 2 by illustrating emerging areas of cognitive-behavioral neuroscience technologies. Chapter 4 showcases two disciplines, neuroethics and the cultural underpinnings of social neuroscience, that could assist intelligence analysts by providing a larger context beyond fixed definitions of cognitive-behavioral neuroscience. Chapter 5 includes committee assessments of various aspects of cognitive-behavioral neuroscience using the technology warning methodology described earlier in this chapter. Appendix C provides a full account and explanation of the methodology. REFERENCES NRC (National Research Council). 2005. Avoiding Surprise in an Era of Global Technology Advances. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11286. NRC. 2006. Critical Technology Accessibility. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11658. NRC. 2008. Nanophotonics: Accessibility and Applicability. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11907.