Information warfare and neuro-weaponry


Author: Zac Rogers

The parameters of contemporary conflict, as ASPI’s Tom Uren noted recently, are shifting. Transformations in the character of warfare have always attracted varying levels of attention and opposition, and plenty of hubris. In general, the national security, intelligence and defence community has muddled through. Some of that’s been due to the best combination of analytical rigour, intuitive talent and a wisdom that only experience and time can bring. But, as Andrew Davies has pointed out, some of it’s due to blind, random luck.

One aspect of the current shift that Australia’s security community should be paying attention to is developments in the application of cognitive neuroscience to national security. The landmark US study on this topic was the National Research Council’s Emerging cognitive neuroscience and related technologies, published in 2008. A comprehensive overview was provided in the book Mind wars by Jonathan D. Moreno, first published in 2006 and updated in 2010, which was followed by a number of other excellent studies by other authors. And since 2007, the annual conference organised by the US Department of Defense’s Strategic Multilayer Assessment program has brought the national security and cognitive neuroscience communities together for wide-ranging discussions.

The insights of the cognitive neurosciences over the past two decades have been rich and enlightening. Many of them will be used in pursuit of furthering human wellbeing. But many, of course, will be employed in the everchanging means by which human beings make war. A ‘neuro-weapon’, as described broadly by James Giordano, is anything that accesses the brain to contend with others. Defence dual-use neuro-technology has been the subject of numerous DARPA and IARPA research programs for years now.

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Dr Zac Rogers is a lead researcher at the Jeff Bleich Centre for the US Alliance in Digital Technology, Security and Governance (JBC).

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors.


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