Wednesday, February 22, 2012

more human than human

TheAtlantic | If we can engineer a soldier who can resist torture, would it still be wrong to torture this person with the usual methods? Starvation and sleep deprivation won't affect a super-soldier who doesn't need to sleep or eat. Beatings and electric shocks won't break someone who can't feel pain or fear like we do. This isn't a comic-book story, but plausible scenarios based on actual military projects today.

In the next generation, our warfighters may be able to eat grass, communicate telepathically,resist stress, climb walls like a lizard, and much more. Impossible? We only need to look at nature for proofs of concept. For instance, dolphins don't sleep (or they'd drown); Alaskan sled-dogs can run for days without rest or food; bats navigate with echolocation; and goats will eat pretty much anything. Find out how they work, and maybe we can replicate that in humans.

As you might expect, there are serious moral and legal risks to consider on this path. Last week in the UK, The Royal Society released its report " Neuroscience, Conflict and Security." This timely report worried about risks posed by cognitive enhancements to military personnel, as well as whether new nonlethal tactics, such as directed energy weapons, could violate either the Biological or Chemical Weapons Conventions.

While an excellent start, the report doesn't go far enough, as I have been explaining to the US intelligence community , National Research Council, DARPA, and other organizations internationally. The impact of neural and physical human enhancements is more far-reaching than that, such as to the question of torturing the enhanced. Other issues, as described below, pose real challenges to military policies and broader society.


nanakwame said...

"When you're working on a sensitive document on your computer, the first thing you do is back it up. You make a copy of it, you email it to yourself, you put it in your dropbox, and your flash drive -- sometimes all these things at once. Why do we pay this obsessive attention to backing up a document, which we can reproduce, when we pay no attention to backing up our civilization? There is no greater endeavor than ensuring the survival of humankind." 

CNu said...

Either an incredibly bad and stupid write-up in the Atlantic, or, an incredibly bad and stupid waste of resources in the form of  porky gig for Dorothy Jemison and her personal foundation. Human survival is in no way contingent on interstellar travel, and, interstellar travel is utterly infeasible for organisms larger and more fragile than spores.

Mastery of the planetary deeps, and, mastery of this solar system - are more than sufficient to dodge any planetary species extinction event bullets - and both of these objectives are within immediate technological and financial reach.

nanakwame said...

Yes the immediate Earth area is fine - space city still makes sense - on the long distance travel, I agree . The pics like on the buckyballs is so great.

CNu said...

These humans know how to burrow like a don't know what - - and have been busy, busy, busy doing it for decades now.

In a "conspiracy-minded" way, it always gives me pause to wonder precisely why such equipment hasn't been more broadly and robustly utilized in public and private deep underground mining projects? Heck, if the Russians can run a fleet of 13 nuclear ice breakers, you'd think projects like the Big Dig in Boston and others could've been greatly simplified by simple running a couple of subterrenes.

nanakwame said...

To burrow, interesting concept, no matter what the body is changing?

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