According to the committee’s research, the United States currently has a competitive advantage in augmented cognition technology because it leads in the development of humancentered software, although strong research in cognitive computing is performed worldwide. Strong research efforts using reconfigurable computing for neural networks exist in Australia, Ireland, Turkey, and Switzerland. In addition, large international programs, such as the European FACETS (Fast Analog Computing with Emergent Transient States) consortium with participants from seven countries (Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), drive research and development for novel neuromorphic computing architectures.
The Importance of Good Design
Machines excel at precise, repetitive operations—tasks for which humans are poorly designed. In contrast, humans excel at tasks requiring flexibility and creativity, and at responding to novel, unexpected situations—tasks in which machines perform poorly. Unfortunately, many computational designs currently do not take advantage of human capabilities and instead force humans to operate by machine rules and logic. With better attention to the well-established principles of human-centered design and human-systems integration, including modeling and simulation of human cognitive performance, there could be a significant enhancement in human cognitive capability with no need for new research or new applications.
Technologies for Degrading Human Cognitive Performance
Although most HPM computational advances are intended to enhance performance, the committee’s research identified a class of technology designed to degrade performance. An example has been described by Japanese researchers who have developed a device, using commercial off-the-shelf components, to interfere with and prevent speech production (Kurihara and Tsukada, 2012). In combat or peacekeeping environments, use of such a device could lead to serious consequences by preventing spoken commands, instructions, or assurances intended for friendly or enemy troops, or civilians.3 Although no additional examples of purposeful degradation of human cognitive capability were uncovered, the potential for such technologies should not be dismissed.
HUMAN PERFORMANCE MODIFICATION AS A BIOLOGICAL PROBLEM
Two primary areas of research and development in HPM as a biological problem were assessed by the committee as having the most likely impact in the next 10-15 years: tissue engineering and mechanisms for addressing fatigue (including sleep patterns).
Tissue engineering can be defined as the use of cells, engineered materials, and suitable biochemical and physiochemical factors to improve or replace biological functions. Success has been achieved in tissues that are thin membranes, that are avascular, or that have high regeneration potential. For example, tissue-engineered skin, cartilage, bone, and corneas have been used clinically (Khademhosseini et al., 2009).
Three approaches to tissue engineering include the conductive approach, which uses a material to provide the structural framework for cell infiltration; the inductive approach, which
3By contrast, accidental or unintended degradation of human performance can occur with the inappropriate use of devices meant to enhance performance, such as, for example, the use of a cell phone while driving.