We only recently learned that the Chinese have been experimenting with gene editing to help them create a new generation of “super soldiers.” Not to be outdone, the United States has been working on its own upgrades to the Americans who serve in uniform. But rather than editing their DNA, we’re apparently looking at brain implants that will allow our soldiers to read each other’s minds. Sure, that sounds like something out of a dystopian science-fiction novel, but it’s apparently not. Using a concept similar to the one developed by Elon Musk’s Neuralink company, Artificial Intelligence combined with some sort of neural-scanning implant and a smartphone would eventually allow warfighters in the theater of combat to communicate with each other instantly over significant distances. But will they be able to read the enemy’s mind as well? (The Debrief)
Groundbreaking research into decoding signals from the brain presents the possibility that soldiers may be able to communicate telepathically with their colleagues in the future. The research was funded by the US Army Research Office over the past five years, yielding results that included separating brain signals that inform behavior from signals that do not. Assuming this works, the significant outcomes of this technology concerning the US Army are that it would potentially give American soldiers an edge in communication during times of high-tension and warfare.
The development of human-brain interfaces is a long-running area of interest in the technology industry. The most recent example of this came as Elon Musk demonstrated that an operative brain-computer interface would allow “human-AI symbiosis” from his startup company Neuralink.
The latest iteration is different from the prototype version put on display during Neuralink’s 2019 event in that it is fully wireless and charges using induction.
The idea of tapping into the electrical signals produced by the human brain and making use of them for external purposes really isn’t new. There were working prototypes of electric wheelchairs controlled by the user’s mind more than a decade ago. But as the linked article points out, now they’re attempting something that’s a lot more complicated.
Apparently, the brain waves that control basic motor functions are easier to both identify and translate. Examples would include things like the commands your brain sends to your hand to allow you to push or pull a joystick, as in the aforementioned wheelchair experiments. But the rest of the brain’s activity, specifically thoughts and “emotional conditions,” are more ethereal and complicated. Teaching an AI program to interpret those types of signals presents significant challenges.
Even if this works, we still wouldn’t be talking about actual telepathy, where the soldiers tap directly into each other’s brains. Basically, the implant would pick up one person’s brain waves and feed them to a computer (possibly a cellphone in your pocket). The algorithm would interpret the information and transmit it instantly to someone else’s phone, which would then broadcast the information to the neural implant of the second person. Or perhaps even a large number of people? A commander could hypothetically broadcast his orders to all of his troops scattered over a large area without making a sound or using radio equipment that could be intercepted by the enemy.
Keep in mind that our military and intelligence agencies have shown an interest in the hidden powers of the human mind for a very long time. Declassified government documents revealed that the CIA was working on training people to spy on adversaries around the world through a process known as remote viewing in a program dubbed Operation Stargate. Their official line is that the project was abandoned in the seventies after it failed to produce results, but some former agents contend that it’s continued to the present day. And then there were the supposed telepaths that were featured in the movie The Men Who Stare at Goats. (Based on a true story.)
Looking at the question with this historical perspective, training a battalion of mind-reading cyborgs probably isn’t all that much of a leap for our military. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be alarmed about it. This is some seriously creepy technology and it could lead to all manner of disasters in the wrong hands. You probably think it’s bad when hackers steal your credit card number and your password. Imagine what will happen when they can literally read your mind.