Box 1-1
Statement of Task

The National Research Council will form an ad hoc committee to focus on developmental capabilities in the general area of human performance modification. The committee will perform an initial review of the literature, select the most promising areas, and identify the lead players (state or non-state) in those areas. Areas of investigation include biotechnology, brain-computer interfaces, cognitive enhancement, electronics, nanotechnology, and neural implants. This does not preclude additional areas uncovered during the course of the study. The committee will exclude conventional pharmaceuticals and exoskeletons per the sponsor’s direction.

The committee will then:

1) Identify and describe the technical maturity of research efforts emphasizing the top non-U.S. players;

2) Describe the research and development environment with a particular focus on governmental policy;

3) Characterize the developmental timeline for each of the technologies;

4) Assess the implications of the technology development in the 15-25 year timeframe;

5) Offer findings or conclusions on issues such as possible scientific-technology “mismatches,” research or technology “breakthroughs,” or identify “gaps” in scientific findings or technology.

Reviewers of this report pointed out a number of worthy topics that were not considered here, either because they do not have a strong technology component or because of the committee’s limited time and resources:

• Virtual reality (though augmented reality is discussed),

• Ergonomics,

• Human simulation models, including cognitive models,

• Social modification of human performance, including better leadership and management,

• Enhancements in group cognition, and

• Implanted devices.


For each of the HPM technologies selected above, the committee discusses the technological maturity (Task 1), implications (Task 4), and research needs (Task 5). To the extent it could, the committee comments on the expected development timelines for the technologies (Task 3), although forecasting technology development is notoriously difficult (see Appendix D).

There were a number of challenges encountered in addressing the activities of non-U.S. players (Task 1) and government policy (Task 2). It quickly became apparent that the globalization of research, both in academe and in industry, precluded a nation-by-nation approach. Academic papers of interest commonly featured cooperation between researchers in multiple countries and movement of ideas among university laboratories. Companies large enough to sponsor research and development are increasingly global and have laboratories in many countries. The flow of intellectual activities is sped by the global information infrastructure, most notably the Internet.

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