Neuroscience—and the weapons of the mind

Neuroscience—and the weapons of the mind

By Robert Bruner, Filippa Lentzos

While MKULTRA is infamous for its attempts to control the mind through hypnosis and phenomena, its researchers primarily concentrated on the use of pharmaceuticals and mind-bending drugs such as hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana, heroin, LSD, and truth serums to make intelligence targets more cooperative in questioning and more willing to act as agents of the United States. Ultimately, the project failed because of a lack of scientific understanding of the inner workings of the brain and how to manipulate it.

But today, neuroscience appears to be breaking down previous technical barriers to the exogenous control of emotion, behavior, and ultimately the mind.

Scientific breakthroughs in the understanding of the biological basis of behavior and cognition have given rise to numerous treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders. These treatments have improved the quality of life for many people all over the world. But these technologies have dual-use potential.

Psychiatric drugs and brain stimulation stand out as neurotechnologies of particular concern. But what are the on-the-ground realities of these technologies—what is the potential for converting clinical uses of behavioral neuroscience to the battlefield? Is it technically possible to alter brain chemistry in order to introduce novel emotions, cause cognitive shifts, and affect behavior? YES…

Dr. James Giordano, Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program and Scholar-in-Residence in the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University, speaks to cadets and faculty about how advancements in neuroscience and neurotechnology will impact the future of war. This event was hosted by the Modern War Institute at West Point.


If mass-produced, weaponized, and spread further afield, the same drugs that show promise as substitutes for psychological torture could be used as neurochemical weapons that alter the emotions of a nation’s armed forces, or that quickly change hearts and minds within a civilian population by influencing the visceral reaction to a military campaign. The most threatening neurochemical weapons—and the most likely to be used—are hypnotic drugs that reduce alertness, sedate, and anaesthetize. Psychedelic drugs, however, which alter cognition, emotion, and behavior, also have potential for battlefield deployment because of their ability to disorient and simulate psychosis. Numerous microbes and toxins that target the nervous system also have potential to affect decisions about whether to fight or surrender and could significantly impede adversarial soldiers.

Mind control back in vogue!

Make no mistake, neuroscience can be misused to alter emotions or memories, covertly implant ideas, or cause cognitive shifts. However, significant technical challenges remain—again, operationalizing neuroweapons is extremely difficult. Yet while it is unlikely that promises of mind control will be realized by neuroweapons, it would be naïve to assume that approaches to behavioral control will not become more refined over time. Obstacles to behavioral control also present themselves to psychiatrists treating disease and, as better psychiatric treatments continue to be pursued, barriers to the malignant use of neuroscience will lower. Neuroscience can be weaponized and deployed by actors willing to expend the time, money, and resources necessary.

International humanitarian and armament law represent crucially important components in governing the development and use of neuroweapons. On the surface, these legal standards prohibit neuroweapons. Their strength, however, has been weakened by ambiguities and by the defiance of state actors. For instance, because international bodies had failed to provide guidance about which specific actions constituted torture, the Bush administration was able to argue that its “enhanced interrogations” of Guantánamo Bay prisoners did not meet the severity threshold of pain or mental injury required by international law—and thus could not be considered torture under existing treaties. In the context of state attempts at behavioral control, arguments similar to those of the Bush administration could be used to explain away the use of pharmaceuticals or neurotechnology that malevolently altered the inner workings of the brain. The prohibition of neurochemical weapons under armament law is much stronger, but here too, loopholes and ambiguities exist. Chemical weapons intended for riot control are not prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention, for instance; this provides space for states to legally develop incapacitating weapons under the guise of developing a domestic riot control agent, and then rapidly convert neurochemical weapons for use in conflict.

Another challenge to the governance framework is the possibility that, as the technologies described here become more developed, perceptions of their utility may shift—just as barriers to the development and use of biological weapons are decreasing. For example, some observers argue that not only are drugs permissible if (by simulating a state of euphoria and positive emotions) they make a person talk, but that they are a morally superior substitute for torture and “enhanced interrogation.” The allure of behavioral-control capability could change nations’ existing sociopolitical calculations about the utility of neuroscience-based weapons and drive further military and intelligence development of neuroweapons. Troublingly, these shifting perceptions—matched with increasing geopolitical turbulence and a shift away from state-centric conflict—could make behavioral control seem ever more tempting.

An increasingly multipolar world is emerging—one in which rising powers view human rights, justice, transparency, and the use of force differently. Therefore, challenges to humanitarian and armament law will only increase. To monitor the conversion of behavioral neuroscience from benign medical treatments into malignant weapons, and to shape how neuroweapons may be perceived and used, the international community must attach the utmost importance to strengthening the normative and legal framework that is embodied in multilateral treaties and national laws and regulations. The medical standards that doctors and scientists are obliged to uphold, as well as codes of practice and research ethics, must also be strengthened in view of the potential misuse of behavioral neuroscience. The containment of neuroweapons relies on the strength of norms—from the top down and from the bottom up—against the use of torture, unconventional weapons, and the militant use of neuroscience. Both scientists and the international community must remain vigilant about preventing behavioral neuroscience from leaking into the security realm.

5G Will Use the Same Frequencies as Military Weapons do!!!

5G Will Use the Same Frequencies as Military Weapons do!!!

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania weapons 5 g

What does the 5G network and a non-lethal weapon developed by the military have in common? The Department of Defense has developed a non-lethal crowd control device called the Active Denial System (ADS). The ADS works by firing a high-powered beam of 95 GHz waves at a target—that is, millimeter wavelengths.  Anyone caught in the beam will feel like their skin is burning. The burning sensation stops once the target leaves the beam. This weapon operates on 95GHz waves and 5G will operate on the same frequencies. 

Today’s cellular and Wi-Fi networks rely on microwaves – a type of electromagnetic radiation utilizing frequencies up to 6 gigahertz (GHz) in order to wirelessly transmit voice or data. However, 5G applications will require unlocking of new spectrum bands in higher frequency ranges above 6 GHz to 100 GHz and beyond, utilizing sub-millimeter and millimeter waves – to allow ultra-high rates of data to be transmitted in the same amount of time as compared with previous deployments of microwave radiation.

Have a look at the U.S. Navy’s most advanced laser weapon looks like a pricey amateur telescope.

Same with psychotronic weapons – totally invisible and work at the speed of light.

Now a US weapons that relies on the capability of this electromagnetic technology to induce unpleasant burning sensations on the skin as a form of crowd control is being rolled out.

Millimeter waves are utilized by the U.S. Army in crowd dispersal guns called Active Denial Systems. Dr. Paul Ben-Ishai pointed to research that was commissioned by the U.S. Army to find out why people ran away when the beam touched them. “If you are unlucky enough to be standing there when it hits you, you will feel like your body is on fire.” The U.S. Department of Defense explains how: “The sensation dissipates when the target moves out of the beam. The sensation is intense enough to cause a nearly instantaneous reflex action of the target to flee the beam.”

See the video below for the 5G frequency weapon in action: 

So, what we’re talking about with 5G technology is being exposed to the same kind of waves day in and day out, only at a lower power than the ADS. Have safety studies confirmed that such exposure is safe? No.

There’s more! Research from a team of Israeli physicists has found that there are new problems to consider with exposure to millimeter waves. When the wavelength of the energy approaches the dimensions of our biological structures, i.e. our skin and sweat ducts, previous assumptions about the safety of energy radiation are no longer valid. The research shows that, with millimeter waves, our sweat ducts actually act like little antennas, which means we would absorb more of this energy into our bodies. Other research has demonstrated that short-term exposure to low-intensity millimeter waves affects human cell membranes and could even result in the proliferation of multi-drug resistant bacteria.

Seeing as there has been virtually no research on long-term exposure to millimeter waves, the large-scale deployment of 5G technology is a massive experiment, and we’re the guinea pigs.

There’s no opting out of 5G—in fact it will become more ubiquitous than wireless technology is right now. As Verizon boasts on its website, the “Internet of Things” will thrive on 5G technology. The Internet of Things refers to the expanding number of devices, appliances, utilities, and other technologies that collect, transmit, and share data through the internet. Essentially, many processes that have not previously relied on the internet will start to once 5G roles out: switching lightbulbs on or off with a smartphone app, driverless cars—even “smart cities” that will use wireless networks to collect and analyze data about the environment, traffic, water, transit, lighting, waste management, security, and parking.

“The use of sub-terahertz (Millimeter wave) communications technology (cell phones, Wi-Fi, network transmission antennas) could cause humans to feel physical pain via nociceptors, ” stated Dr. Yael Stein, MD, who wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission about 5G Spectrum Frontiers.

Devra Lee Davis Founding Director of the Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology of the U.S. National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, Founding Director of the Center for Environmental Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute says

I love my devices as much as anyone else but I don’t want to the health of my grandchildren at risk. I don’t want to put them in harm’s way. We now know that the skin, our largest organ does respond to 5g, and in fact our sweat ducts they can act as antennas that can receive signals. 5G has not been tested for safety. The fact that it can interact with our sweat ducts may have much more profound meaning for our overall health and well-being. The idea that we’re going to saturate this country with a network that has never been tested is appalling. I am joining with many other scientists from around the world now to express concerns. We must evaluate these things before we roll out the technology  no matter how attractive it is for us to have faster downloads of video games, pornography or virtual reality. The question we have to ask ourselves is it worth endangering the health of our children?

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania 5 g global lock down

Dr. Davis’ group – Environmental Health Trust – explains:

Israeli research studies presented at an international conference reveal that the same electromagnetic frequencies used for crowd control weapons form the foundation of the latest network – branded as 5G – that will tie together more than 50 billion devices as part of the Internet of Things. Current investigations of wireless frequencies in the millimeter and submillimeter range confirm that these waves interact directly with human skin, specifically the sweat glands. Dr. Ben-Ishai of the Department of Physics, Hebrew University, Israel recently detailed how human sweat ducts act like an array of helical antennas when exposed to these wavelengths. Scientists cautioned that before rolling out 5G technologies that use these frequencies, research on human health effects needed to be done first to ensure the public and environment are protected.

[Dr. Davis notes] “This work shows that the same parts of the human skin that allow us to sweat also respond to 5G radiation much like an antenna that can receive signals. We need the potential adverse health impacts of 5G to be seriously evaluated before we blanket our children, ourselves and the environment with this radiation.”

Research studies from the Dielectric Spectroscopy Laboratory of the Department of Applied Physics, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, headed by Dr. Yuri Feldman, indicate that millimeter and sub-millimeter waves may lead to preferential layer absorption. The number of sweat ducts within human skin varies from two million to four million. The researchers pointed to replicated peer research of these biological effects in laboratory research conducted in other countries and considered this mechanism of action well-proven.

There are now many thousands of peer-reviewed medical and epidemiological studies that show, illustrate or correlate, adverse biological effects with use of mobile phone technology or WIFI. Using frequencies even higher than 5 GHz (and up to 100 GHz) will compress the timeframe in which cancers and other biological effects show themselves within society. It is anyone’s guess on what might happen in terms of biological safety yet it is clear to see that the pulsed nature of these high frequency, high signal intensity signals do not harbor good news for humanity, particularly in relation to the functioning of our DNA.

Millimeter-wave-emitting devices will saturate our environment, and the fact that we’re plunging head-first into deploying this technology without knowing the health consequences is shocking.  


Control Technology: No 1 ???

Control Technology: The Future Of Technology And Its Impact On Our Lives

Are your opinions really your own—or how much have they been carefully shaped until you think they are? Today’s digital connectivity makes it possible to share information like never before—traditional borders and constraints of distance simply do not exist anymore. But this same connectivity also makes it easier to manipulate the public’s perception of reality. The term “fake news” has become increasingly common in the past year—but it is only one facet of a much larger problem: the use of technology to alter public opinion, and ultimately affect the real world.

This is not a new phenomenon. At every point in human history where a new disruptive communications technology has replaced another, propaganda and manipulation flourish. Each communication method has its associated societal norms and customs, but these take time to form. What is allowed on television, radio, and print is well established—but the Internet has not reached that level of maturity yet.

“We need a program of psychosurgery for political control of our society. The purpose is physical control of the mind. Everyone who deviates from the given norm can be surgically mutilated.

“The individual may think that the most important reality is his own existence, but this is only his personal point of view. This lacks historical perspective. Man does not have the right to develop his own mind. This kind of liberal orientation has great appeal. We must electronically control the brain. Someday armies and generals will be controlled by electric stimulation of the brain.” Dr. José Delgado. Director of Neuropsychiatry, Yale University Medical School Congressional Record, No. 26, Vol. 118 February 24, 1974.

Military neuroscience — Manipulating brain frequencies and energy fields

Carolanne Wright – Psychotronics is the intersection between consciousness, energy fields and matter. In a bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representative in 2001, Dennis J. Kucinich describes psychotronic devices as “weapons” that can be used against individuals or specific populations to exert power over behavior and mood — essentially a form of mind control.

Russia has a long history of developing this class of technology, the most famous being the “Woodpecker” — a “Tesla-type transmitter” that emitted psychoactive signals in the 1970’s through the late eighties.

But Russia isn’t the only player in this dangerous game. GlobalResearch reports:

“Harnessing neuroscience to military capability, this technology is the result of decades of research and experimentation, most particularly in the Soviet Union and the United States. (Welsh, 1997, 2000) We have failed to comprehend that the result of the technology that originated in the years of the arms race between the Soviet Union and the West, has resulted in using satellite technology not only for surveillance and communication systems but also to lock on to human beings, manipulating brain frequencies by directing laser beams, neural-particle beams, electro-magnetic radiation, sonar waves, radio frequency radiation (RFR), soliton waves, torsion fields and by use of these or other energy fields which form the areas of study for astro-physics. Since the operations are characterized by secrecy, it seems inevitable that the methods that we do know about, that is, the exploitation of the ionosphere, our natural shield, are already outdated as we begin to grasp the implications of their use.”

In a 1998 German television documentary, Dr. Igor Smirnov, of the Institute of Psycho-Correction in Moscow, said that it’s easily conceivable that anyone who has the appropriate means and finances could inject himself into every computer network, radio or television broadcast with relative technological ease. “This is why such technology is rightfully feared.”

By now, a good number of people are familiar with the effects of electromagnetic pollution from cell phones, televisions, appliances, smart meters, computers and wi-fi. But could there be another more sinister reason why our health suffers when we’re exposed to these modern devices? Several U.S. patents suggest a disquieting answer.

Hidden mind control technology

According to United States Patent 6,506,148, filed in June of 2001:

“It is therefore possible to manipulate the nervous system of a subject by pulsing images displayed on a nearby computer monitor or TV set. For the latter, the image pulsing may be imbedded in the program material, or it may be overlaid by modulating a video stream, either as an RF signal or as a video signal.”

The invention can also be adapted to the source of video stream, whether a computer program, a television broadcast, video tape or DVD. Pulse variability can be influenced through the use of software in order to avoid habituation of the nervous system.

“Certain monitors can emit electromagnetic field pulses that excite a sensory resonance in a nearby subject, through image pulses that are so weak as to be subliminal. This is unfortunate since it opens a way for mischievous application of the invention, whereby people are exposed unknowingly to manipulation of their nervous systems for someone else’s purposes. Such application would be unethical and is of course not advocated. It is mentioned here in order to alert the public to the possibility of covert abuse that may occur while being online, or while watching TV, a video, or a DVD,” conclude the inventors.

Moreover, patents owned by Raytheon detail how to create “nuclear sized explosions without radiation” and describe electromagnetic pulse, power beam technology and over-the-horizon detection systems. One such patent (US 7629918 B2) describes the Multifunctional Radio Frequency Directed Energy System (RFDE):

“Radio frequency directed energy (RFDE) systems are known in the art for directing high power RF, microwave and/or millimeter wave electromagnetic energy to destroy or disrupt a target. Although RFDE systems typically serve as military weapons, RFDE systems need not be limited to weapon systems.

“An RFDE weapon system can go after a broad range of targets (electronics, biological, ordinance, structures, etc.) due to its relatively large radiated power. A priori knowledge of the intended target characteristics is typically not required because the RFDE weapon either burns-out or overwhelms its target by the shear amount of power it radiates.”

A disturbing possibility (among many) concerning this type of weaponry is the capability of using it to cause negative effects on human health and mental processes. And there is no escape or protection. Once a target is locked onto, it’s impossible to evade the electromagnetic energy by moving around.

Summaries of 85 additional patents relating to mental and emotional manipulation technologies can be found here.

As we contemplate the technological advancements — and ethical implications — relating to mind control, remember President John F. Kennedy’s warning in 1961:

“Today no war has been declared — and however fierce the struggle may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion. Our way of life is under attack… we are opposed, around the world, by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means. … Whatever our hopes may be for the future — for reducing this threat or living with it — there is no escaping either the gravity or the totality of its challenge to our survival and to our security — a challenge that confronts us in unaccustomed ways in every sphere of human activity. … This is a time of peace and peril, which knows no precedent in history. It is the unprecedented nature of this challenge that also gives rise to… our obligation to inform and alert the American people — to make certain that they possess all the facts that they need, and understand them as well. … I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens,   whenever they are fully informed.”

How far in the future is the ban of psychotronic weapons?

How far in the future is the ban of psychotronic weapons?


In March 2012, Russia’s defense minister Anatoli Serdjukov said at a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin: “The development of weaponry based on new physics principles; direct-energy weapons, geophysical weapons, wave-energy weapons, genetic weapons, psychotronic weapons, etc., is part of the state arms procurement program for 2011-2020.”

The world media reacted to his hinting about the open use of psychotronic weapons by publishing scientific experiments from the 1960s in which electromagnetic waves were used to transmit simple sounds into the human brain. However, most of them avoided saying that extensive scientific research has been carried out in this area throughout the world since then. Colombian newspaper El Espectador was only one of a few to publish an article covering the full scale of the achievements of this research. [Read the English version here ]

UK-based newspaper Daily Mail wrote that research in electromagnetic weapons had been secretly carried out in the United States and Russia since the 1950s and that “previous research has shown that low-frequency waves or beams can affect brain cells, alter psychological states and make it possible to transmit suggestions and commands directly into someone’s thought processes. High doses of microwaves can damage the functioning of internal organs, control behaviour or even drive victims to suicide.”

In 1975, neuropsychologist Don R. Justesen, director of Laboratories of Experimental Neuropsychology at Veterans Administration Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., unwittingly leaked national security information. He published an article in American Psychologist about the influence of microwaves on living creatures’ behavior. In the article, he quoted the results of an experiment described to him over a phone conversation by colleague Joseph C. Sharp, who was working on Pandora, a secret project of the U.S. Navy. Justesen wrote : “By radiating themselves with these “voice modulated’ microwaves, Sharp and Grove were readily able to hear, identify, and distinguish among the 9 words. The sounds heard were not unlike those emitted by persons with artificial larynxes.”

That this system was later brought to perfection is proved by the document which appeared on the website of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1997, where its Office of Research and Development presented the Department of Defense’s project, Communicating Via the Microwave Auditory Effect. The office offered the following description : “An innovative and revolutionary technology is described that offers a low-probability-of-intercept radiofrequency (RF) communications. The feasibility of the concept has been established using both a low intensity laboratory system and a high power RF transmitter. Numerous military applications exist in areas of search and rescue, security and special operations.”

In January 2007, the Washington Post wrote on the same subject: “In 2002, the Air Force Research Laboratory patented precisely such a technology: using microwaves to send words into someone’s head. That work is frequently cited on mind-control Web sites. Rich Garcia, a spokesman for the research laboratory’s directed energy directorate, declined to discuss that patent or current or related research in the field, citing the lab’s policy not to comment on its microwave work. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed for this article, the Air Force released unclassified documents surrounding that 2002 patent — records that note that the patent was based on human experimentation in October 1994 at the Air Force lab, where scientists were able to transmit phrases into the heads of human subjects, albeit with marginal intelligibility. Research appeared to continue at least through 2002. Where this work has gone since is unclear — the research laboratory, citing classification, refused to discuss it or release other materials.”

We can only stress again that the world media avoided publishing the full scale of the progress of this research. Dr. Robert Becker, who was nominated twice for a Nobel Prize for his share in the discovery of the effects of pulsed fields at the healing of broken bones, wrote in his book, titled Body Electric, about the 1974 experiment by J. F. Schapitz, released due to the Freedom of Information Act request. Schapitz stated: “In this investigation, it will be shown that the spoken word of hypnotist may also be conveyed by modulated electromagnetic energy directly into the subconscious parts of the human brain – i.e. without employing any technical devices for receiving or transcoding the messages and without the person exposed to such influence having a chance to control the information input consciously.” In one of the four experiments, subjects were given a 100-question test, ranging from easy questions to technical ones. Later, not knowing they were being irradiated, they would be subjected to information beams suggesting the answers to the questions they had left blank, amnesia for some of their correct answers, and memory falsification for other correct answers. After two weeks, they had to pass the test again (Dr. Robert Becker: Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of
Life, William Morrow and comp., New York, 1985, ). The results of the second test were never published. It is rather evident that in those experiments the messages were sent into the human brain in ultrasound frequencies in which the human brain perceives but of which the subject is unaware. Becker, due to those publications and his refusal to support the building of the antennae for the communication with submarines in brain frequencies, lost financial support for his research, thereby putting an end to his scientific career.

Transmitting human speech into the human brain by means of electromagnetic waves is for researchers one of the most difficult tasks. It must be much easier to control human emotions that motivate human thinking, decision making and actions. People who claim to be victims of experiments with those devices complain, aside of hearing voices, of false feelings (including orgasms) and aches of internal organs, a condition physicians are unable to diagnose.

In November 2000, the Committee on Security of the Russian state Duma stated that capabilities enabling remote control of the human nervous system or the remote infliction of health impairment are available to many modern governments. It is evident that those technologies are used, in conflict with the Nuremberg code, for experiments on unwitting human subjects. In 2001, the newspaper of the U.S. Army wrote that Israel was experimenting with those weapons on Palestinians. Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, while under siege at the Brazilian embassy in Honduras, complained that he had been subjected to an “electron bombardment with microwaves” which produces “headache and organic destabilization.” When asked by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman if he knew about this in the Honduran arsenal, he replied: “Yes, of course.”

The use of those weapons is reemerging in times of political crisis. According to Russian daily newspapers, during the failed putsch against Mikhail Gorbachov in 1991, General Kobets warned the defenders of the Russian White House that mind control technology could be used against them. After the putsch, the vice president of the League of Independent Scientists of the USSR, Victor Sedlecki, published a declaration in the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda where he stated: “As an expert and a legal entity I declare that mass production … of psychotronic biogenerators was launched in Kiev (this is indeed a very serious issue). I cannot assert for sure that that were exactly Kiev generators that were used during the putsch… However, the fact that they were used is obvious to me. What are psychotronic generators? It is an electronic equipment producing the effect of guided control in human organism. It especially affects the left and right hemisphere of the cortex. This is also the technology of the U.S. Project Zombie 5.“He further stated that due to the inexperience of the personnel who operated them, the attempt to use the generators failed (Komsomolskaya Pravda, August 27,1991, “Avtory programy Zombi obnaruzheny v Kieve”, ).

Presently in the U.S., several hundred people are complaining of the remote manipulation of their nervous system and are preparing a class action lawsuit against the FBI, the Department of Defense and other agencies, requesting that they release files pertaining to their persons, detect the harmful radiations aimed at their bodies, and sources of the radiation. Also, over 2,000 people are complaining in Russia, over 200 in Europe, over 300 in Japan and several people in China and India. Russian politician Vladimir Lopatin, who was working on the Committee on Security of the Russian state Duma and who introduced a bill banning the use of those technologies, admitted in his book, titled Psychotronic Weapon and Security of Russia, that in Russia, experiments on unwitting citizens are carried out. “Compensation of damages and losses connected with social rehabilitation of persons suffering from destructive informational influence must be realized in legal trial,” he wrote .

It should be understood that most of those people pass through mental hospitals. Lopatin visited the U.S. in 1999 to meet with Richard Cheney. At that time he was described as the “leader of a new breed of Soviet dissidents.” Then, he disappeared from top ranks of Russian politicians.

Why has this research remained classified until now? There are two explanations: First, there is a secret arms race in progress in the world where the superpowers compete to gain decisive supremacy in this area, and, in this way, master the control of the whole world. Second, the governments keep those technologies in store in case they would not be able to control, by democratic means, the crises that may arise as a result of their poor decisions. In both cases, the era of democracy and human freedom will come to an end. According to the declaration of Serdjukov, there are, at the most, eight years left within which those weapons will officially become a part of the Russian military arsenal. For democracy, this would mean the beginning of the end.

In the past, Russians were not resolved to put those means to work. When the construction of the American system HAARP was launched, with the system supposedly being able to target large regions of the planet by vibrating the ionosphere in brain frequencies , Russia declared its willingness to ban mind control technologies. The Russian state Duma, and, consequently, the Interparliamentary Assembly of the Union of Independent States, addressed the United Nations, OBSE and the European Council with a proposal for an international convention banning the development and use of informational weapons. According to the Russian newspaper Segodnya in March 1998, the matter was discussed with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Anan and included on the agenda of the General Assembly of the U.N. It is most likely that the U.S. refused to negotiate this convention, and, in consequence, the ban of informational weapons was not discussed by the U.N. General Assembly. Even in the U.S., Congress approved a bill proposing the ban of mind control technologies . But this was only for a very short period of time. The bill was then changed, and the ban of those technologies was left out of the Space Preservation Bill. Neither Congress nor the president made ever an effort to ban mind control weapons. The European Parliament reacted as well to the launch of the HAARP system construction, calling for a ban on the manipulation of human beings. The resolution was passed after the testimony of the Nick Begich, author of the book Angels Don’t Play this HAARP. His testimony convinced the European Parliament of the possible use of this system to manipulate the minds of whole populations. In the European Parliament’s STOA (Science and Technological Options Assessment) panel report, titled Crowd Control Technologies, the European Parliament calls “for an international convention and global ban on all research and development, whether civilian or military, which seeks to apply knowledge of the chemical, electrical, sound vibration or other functioning of the human brain to the development of weapons which might enable any form of manipulation of human beings, including a ban on any actual or possible deployment (stressed by the author of the article) of such systems.” At the same time, the European countries resigned on this intention when accepting the NATO politics of non-lethal weapons. The same STOA report claims that the U.S. is a major promoter of the use of those arms and that: “In October 1999 NATO announced a new policy on non-lethal weapons and their place in allied arsenals ” In 1996 non-lethal tools identified by the U.S. Army included directed energy systems and radio frequency weapons.” Directed energy system is further defined by the STOA document: “Directed energy weapon system designed to match radio frequency source to interfere with human brain activity at synapse level.” Since 1999, those weapons have been upgraded for another 13 years.

In 1976, Zbygniew Brzezinski, the future National Security advisor to President Carter, wrote a book titled Between Two Ages, America’s Role in the Technetronic Era (Penguin Books, 1976, Massachusetts). In the book, he predicted a “more controlled and directed society” based on the development of technology, where an elite group will play a leading role, taking advantage of persisting social crises to use “the latest modern techniques for influencing public behavior and keeping society under close surveillance and control.”

The use of mind control technologies was predicted as well in the 1994 publication of Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College. The prediction for the year 2000 was the growth of terrorism, drug trafficking and criminality. This conclusion was drawn: “The president was thus amenable to the use of the sort of psychotechnology which formed the core of the RMA (revolution in military affairs) … it was necessary to rethink our ethical prohibitions on manipulating the minds of enemies (and potential enemies) both international and domestic … Through persistent efforts and very sophisticated domestic “consciousness raising,” old-fashioned notions of personal privacy and national sovereignty changed. As technology changed the way force was applied, things such as personal courage, face-to-face leadership, and the “war fighter” mentality became irrelevant.” Potential or possible supporters of the insurgency around the world were identified using the comprehensive Interagency Integrated Database. These were categorized as “potential” or “active,” with sophisticated personality simulations used to develop, tailor and focus psychological campaigns for each.” So, the Institute of Strategic Studies predicted that in the year 2000 those technologies would be so advanced that it would be possible to deprive a human being of his freedom and adjust his personality to the needs of ruling elite. Most probably those technologies were at this level already in 1994.

Attempts to make the general public acquainted with the existence of those weapons are, with respect to the fact that it is evident that democratic public would require an immediate ban of those technologies, systematically suppressed. Lopatin wrote: “The arms race is speeding up as a consequence of classification. Secrecy is the way to secure cruel control over the people, the way to curtail their creativity, turn them into biorobots.” Psychotronic war “is already taking place without declaration of war, secretly ” Only if the work on the mind control problem is no more covered by the screen of secrecy, extraordinariness, mysteriousness; if complex, open scientific research with international participation, is carried out, the psychotronic war including the use of psychotronic weapon can be prevented.”

The article, titled Informacni zbrane ohrozuji demokracii a lidstvo, was deleted from the website of the Czech internet newspaper Britske Listy ( ). The sharing of the original URL of the English version of the same article (Means of Information War Threaten Democracy and Mankind) is blocked on Facebook, and a similar article was deleted from the website of Australian magazine New Dawn. This proves that the governments keep open the option to use this technology against their uninformed citizens. This is as well confirmed by the fact that there exists no legislations punishing the use of those technologies by governments. Only in Russia and some of the states in the U.S. are there legislations punishing the ownership or trading with those technologies by nongovernmental entities. In the state of Michigan , for example, the sentence for this crime is equal to the sentence for ownership or trading with weapons of mass destruction.


Petition for the ban of technologies enabling remote manipulation of human bodily and nervous system by the U.S. Congress:

Biotechnology and Human Augmentation

Mick Ryan and Therese Keane

Over the last decade, military theorists and authors in the fields of future warfare and strategy have examined in detail the potential impacts of an ongoing revolution in information technology. There has been a particular focus on the impacts of automation and artificial intelligence on military and national security affairs. This attention on silicon-based disruption has nonetheless meant that sufficient attention may not have been paid to other equally profound technological developments. One of those developments is the field of biotechnology.

There have been some breathtaking achievements in the biological realm over the last decade. Human genome sequencing has progressed from a multi-year and multi-billion dollar undertaking to a much cheaper and quicker process, far outstripping Moore’s Law. Just as those concerned with national security affairs must monitor disruptive silicon-based technologies, leaders must also be literate in the key biological issues likely to impact the future security of nations. One of the most significant matters in biotechnology is that of human augmentation and whether nations should augment military personnel to stay at the leading edge of capability.

Biotechnology and Human Augmentation

Military institutions will continue to seek competitive advantage over potential adversaries. While this is most obvious in the procurement of advanced platforms, human biotechnological advancement is gaining more attention. As a 2017 CSIS report on the Third Offset found most new technological advances will provide only a temporary advantage, assessed to be no more than five years. In this environment, some military institutions may view the newer field of human augmentation as a more significant source of a future competitive edge.

Biological enhancement of human performance has existed for millenia. The discovery of naturally occurring compounds by our ancestors has led to many of the cognitive and physical enhancements currently available. In the contemporary environment, for example, competition in national and international sports continues to fuel a race between creation of the next generation of performance enhancements and regulatory bodies developing detection methods. One example of this is the use of gene doping to hone the competitive edge in athletes, an off-label use of gene therapies originally developed for the treatment of debilitating genetic and acquired diseases. Despite the possibility of cancer and a range of other lethal side effects, some athletes consider these an acceptable risk. Might this not translate to adversaries adopting any possible advantage without equal disregard for ethics and safety considerations?

Gene Doping (Ralf Hiemisch)

It cannot be safely be assumed all states will share  the same ethical, moral, legal, or policy principals as Western democratic societies. Based on developmental trajectories to date, contemporary military institutions should anticipate that all forms of human enhancements, whether relatively benign or highly controversial, will continue to evolve. For contemporary strategic leaders, the key is to anticipate how these developments may potentially impact on military institutions.

Impacts on Military Institutions

Theoretically, future advances in biotechnology may permit the augmentation of cognitive performance. However, given the challenges of biocompatibility of silicon, significant enhancements to human performance in the near future are likely to be found in prosthetics, wearable computing, or human teaming with artificial intelligence. In the longer term, some forms of gene therapy may obviate the need for implants. Noting this, a selection of likely challenges are explored below.

Previously, integration of new groups into the military  dealt with human beings.

A first order issue will be group cohesion. Military institutions have deep experience integrating newcomers into their ranks. Fundamental to effective future teaming will be evolving this approach to establish trust and group cohesion between normal humans and those who are augmented. The degree to which military leaders can and should trust augmented personnel to make decisions about saving and taking lives is likely to be an evolutionary process. It also remains to be seen whether or not teams comprised of augmented and non-augmented humans are capable of developing trust. Experimentation and trials are needed to establish whether augmented people will bias away from decisions and input from non-augmented people and vice versa. While institutions can learn from historical integration challenges, there is one essential difference with augmented humans. Previously, integration of new groups into the military  dealt with human beings. If augmentation using neurotechnology significantly enhances cognitive function, this may represent a separate and distinct group of future Homo sapiens.

The second challenge will be accessibility. Military institutions will need to decide what proportion of its forces will be augmented. Given that early generations of this biotechnology may be expensive, it is unlikely an entire military institution can be augmented. If so, who will be augmented and why? Military institutions will need to develop a value proposition to ensure physical and cognitive augmentation produces superior outcomes to the use of un-augmented personnel. Yet another question to ask is whether military personnel will be de-augmented on leaving the service. The transition of augmented personnel into a largely unaugmented populace may be traumatic for military personnel, and for society more broadly. Even more severe in its repercussions may be transitioning de-augmented personnel into a populace where augmentation is ubiquitous.

The Role of Humans in the Age of Robots (The Luvo)

The third challenge will be conceptual. One Chinese scientist, writing in 2006, has proposed military biotechnology offers the chance to shift to a “new balance between defence and attack, giving rise to a new concept of warfare, a new balance of military force, and new attacking power.” While the emphasis of this particular article was on a more merciful form of warfare—about which we should be skeptical—it nonetheless highlights the requirement to rethink what biotechnology and human augmentation means for how military institutions develop warfighting concepts. When humans arrive with cognitive enhancement, a range of tactical, operational, and strategic concepts may become irrelevant. Strategic thinking, using a combination of biological and silicon-based technologies could take organisations in very different directions than is presently the case. It also bears examining whether those with augmentation will enable greater diversity of performance (particularly in the intellectual realm) or if it will lead to increased homogenisation of physical and cognitive performance.

The fourth challenge is obsolescence. A fundamental challenge for humans waging war is that, despite technological advances, one of the weakest links is the physical capacity of the human. As Patrick Lin was written, technology makes up for our absurd frailty. Therefore, might normal humans without augmentation become irrelevant in a new construct where military institutions possess large numbers of physically and cognitively augmented personnel? It remains to be seen whether unaugmented humans might able to compete with physically and cognitively augmented military personnel. The augmentation of humans for different physical and cognitive functions may also drive change in how military institutions operate, plan, and think strategically.

A fifth challenge is military education and training. Traditional military training emphases the teaching of humans to achieve learning outcomes and missions as individuals and teams. In an integrated augmented/non-augmented institution, training methods must evolve to account for the different and improved capabilities of augmented personnel and to blend the capabilities of augmented and non-augmented personnel. Similarly, education for military leaders currently seeks to achieve their intellectual development in the art and science of war. If humans augmented with cognitive enhancements are present, both institutional and individual professional military education will also need to evolve. Learning delivery, as well as key learning outcomes, will have to be re-examined to account for the enhanced physical and cognitive performance of this new segment of the military workforce. Even issues as basic as fitness assessments must be re-examined. Potentially, military organisations could drop physical assessments by automatically augmenting people to the institutionally desired level of performance.

The sixth challenge is one of choice. Command structures demand a reduction in an individual’s free will to refuse such that informed consent is not quite the same as for the general population. And when experimental augmentation options progress to become approved interventions, can we equate a parent considering whether to choose an approved cognitive augmentation option for their child to a soldier contemplating the same when operating alongside augmented peers where the stakes are orders of magnitude greater? How much choice will military personnel have in the augmentation process? Will this be on a volunteer basis or by direction, and what are the moral, legal, and ethical implications of these stances? Speculation that augmentation may become mandatory for some professions may also apply to the military.

The final issue addressed in this article is one of ethics. Research communities are grappling with the ethical and moral implications of augmentation for society as a whole. While the first concern in evaluating the military applications of biotechnology is international humanitarian law, bioethics must also be considered. Ethical considerations pervade almost every aspect of human augmentation, and there are ethical considerations threaded through the other challenges raised in this article. For example, beyond the first order questions of whether we should augment soldiers are issues such as how much augmentation should be allowable. Military institutions should also assess the cumulative effects of multiple augmentations and the consequences of converging augmentation. There may also be a point at which a highly augmented human may cross the human-machine barrier, as well as a range of unanticipated capabilities that emerge from different augmentation combinations.

A Way Ahead

These issues must be informed by those within the biotechnology community, but they alone cannot solve them. Broader involvement by senior military, government, and community leaders is required. One expert in biotechnology has written that “clearly the new forms of power being unleashed by bio-technology will have to be harnessed and used with greater wisdom than power has been used in the past.” If military institutions are to demonstrate wisdom in their investments in biotechnology, they must explore societal impacts as well as effects within military institutions.

“Splitting humankind into biological castes will destroy the foundations of liberal ideology. Liberalism still presupposes that all human beings have equal value and authority.”

It is likely some augmentation will be—at least initially—expensive.  It may be beyond the means of most people in society and, potentially, many government and corporate institutions. If only military personnel might be augmented, what are the impacts on civil-military relationships, and who would make this decision? In this construct, it could be unethical to deny the benefits of augmentation to wider society. However as Yuval Harari has noted, this may see a differentiation in how society views augmented and non-augmented people—“Splitting humankind into biological castes will destroy the foundations of liberal ideology. Liberalism still presupposes that all human beings have equal value and authority.” In Western democracies, this poses profound questions about conferred advantage, societal sense of fairness and equality, and the value of individuals within society.

In Western democratic systems, development of regulation, policy, and legal frameworks is not keeping pace with the current tempo of complicated technological advancements. It cannot be assumed other states are allowing these deficits to slow their efforts in biotechnology, not to mention the unregulated efforts of non-state actors. While the focus of the fourth industrial revolution remains predominantly on technologies, perhaps for Australia (and other democracies) it is also these areas which require a complementary revolution in the Whole of Nation enterprise so as to keep up with the pace of change and facilitate systematic assessment of human augmentation implications.


The potential to augment the physical and cognitive capacity of humans is seductive. There will be some who will not demonstrate responsible behaviour in taking advantage of these new technologies. Humans have demonstrated in the past the capacity to responsibly manage disruptive technologies such as flight, atomic weapons, and space-based capabilities. This means thoughtful academics, national security practitioners, and people from wider society must be part of the discussion on why and how biotechnology might be used in future. It is vital for the future of global security, and for the human race, that mechanisms for responsible ethical and legal use of biotechnology are considered and developed. This must occur in parallel with the scientific endeavours to develop new biotechnologies.

Mick Ryan is an Australian Army officer, and Commander of the Australian Defence College in Canberra, Australia. A distinguished graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the USMC Staff College and School of Advanced Warfare, he is a passionate advocate of professional education and lifelong learning. Therese Keane is a scientist with the Defence Science and Technology Group. Although with a background in mathematics now expanding into biotechnology. The views expressed are the authors’ and do not reflect the official position of the Australian Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

Nanoethics, On The Mind and the Machine Interaction…

The Mind and the Machine. On the Conceptual and Moral Implications of Brain-Machine Interaction…

Maartje Schermer

Medical Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine, ErasmusMC, Room AE 340, PO Box 2040, 3000 Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Find articles by Maartje Schermer
Medical Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine, ErasmusMC, Room AE 340, PO Box 2040, 3000 Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Maartje Schermer, Phone: +31-107-043062, ln.cmsumsare@remrehcs.m.
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
Received 2009 Nov 5; Accepted 2009 Nov 5.


Brain-machine interfaces are a growing field of research and application. The increasing possibilities to connect the human brain to electronic devices and computer software can be put to use in medicine, the military, and entertainment. Concrete technologies include cochlear implants, Deep Brain Stimulation, neurofeedback and neuroprosthesis. The expectations for the near and further future are high, though it is difficult to separate hope from hype. The focus in this paper is on the effects that these new technologies may have on our ‘symbolic order’—on the ways in which popular categories and concepts may change or be reinterpreted. First, the blurring distinction between man and machine and the idea of the cyborg are discussed. It is argued that the morally relevant difference is that between persons and non-persons, which does not necessarily coincide with the distinction between man and machine. The concept of the person remains useful. It may, however, become more difficult to assess the limits of the human body. Next, the distinction between body and mind is discussed. The mind is increasingly seen as a function of the brain, and thus understood in bodily and mechanical terms. This raises questions concerning concepts of free will and moral responsibility that may have far reaching consequences in the field of law, where some have argued for a revision of our criminal justice system, from retributivist to consequentialist. Even without such a (unlikely and unwarranted) revision occurring, brain-machine interactions raise many interesting questions regarding distribution and attribution of responsibility.

Keywords: Brain-machine interaction, Brain-computer interfaces, Converging technologies, Cyborg, Deep brain stimulation, Moral responsibility, Neuroethics


Within two or three decades our brains will have been entirely unravelled and made technically accessible: nanobots will be able to immerse us totally in virtual reality and connect our brains directly to the Internet. Soon after that we will expand our intellect in a spectacular manner by melting our biological brains with non-biological intelligence. At least that is the prophecy of Ray Kurzweil, futurist, transhumanist and successful inventor of, amongst other things, the electronic keyboard and the voice-recognition system.1 He is not the only one who foresees great possibilities and, what’s more, has the borders between biological and non-biological, real and virtual, and human and machine, disappear with the greatest of ease. Some of these possibilities are actually already here. On 22 June 2004, a bundle of minuscule electrodes was implanted into the brain of the 25-year-old Matthew Nagel (who was completely paralysed due to a high spinal cord lesion) to enable him to operate a computer by means of his thoughts. This successful experiment seems to be an important step on the way to the blending of brains and computers or humans and machines, that Kurzweil and others foresee. With regard to the actual developments in neuroscience and the convergence of neurotechnology with information, communication- and nanotechnology in particular it is still unclear how realistic the promises are. The same applies to the moral and social implications of these developments. This article offers a preliminary exploration of this area. The hypothesis is that scientific and technological developments in neuroscience and brain-machine interfacing challenge—and may contribute to shifts in—some of the culturally determined categories and classification schemes (our ‘symbolic order’), such as body, mind, human, machine, free will and responsibility (see the Introduction to this issue: Converging Technologies, Shifting Boundaries)

Firstly I will examine the expectations regarding the development of brain-machine interfaces and the forms of brain-machine interaction that already actually exist. Subsequently, I will briefly point out the moral issues raised by these new technologies, and argue the debate on these issues will be influenced by the shifts that may take place in our symbolic order—that is, the popular categories that we use in our everyday dealings to make sense of our world—as a result of these developments. It is important to consider the consequences these technologies might have for our understanding of central organizing categories, moral concepts and important values. Section four then focuses on the categories of human and machine: are we all going to become cyborgs? Will the distinction between human and machine blur if more and more artificial components are built into the body and brain? I will argue that the answer depends partly on the context in which this question is asked, and that the concept of the person may be more suitable here than that of the human. Section five is about the distinction between body and mind. I argue that as a result of our growing neuroscientific knowledge and the mounting possibilities for technological manipulation, the mind is increasingly seen as a component of the body, and therefore also more and more in mechanical terms. This put the concept of moral responsibility under pressure. I will illustrate the consequences of these shifts in concepts and in category-boundaries with some examples of the moral questions confronting us already.

Developments in Brain-Machine Interaction

Various publications and reports on converging technologies and brain-machine interaction speculate heatedly on future possibilities for the direct linkage of the human brain with machines, that is: some form of computer or ICT technology or other. If the neurosciences provide further insight into the precise working of the brain, ICT technology becomes increasingly powerful, the electronics become more refined and the possibilities for uniting silicones with cells more advanced, then great things must lie ahead of us—or so it seems. The popular media, but also serious governmental reports and even scientific literature, present scenarios that are suspiciously like science fiction as realistic prospects: the expansion of memory or intelligence by means of an implanted chip; the direct uploading of encyclopaedias, databases or dictionaries into the brain; a wireless connection from the brain to the Internet; thought reading or lie detection via the analysis of brain activity; direct brain-to-brain communication. A fine example comes from the report on converging technologies issued by the American National Science Foundation:

‘Fast, broadband interfaces directly between the human brain and machines will transform work in factories, control automobiles, ensure military superiority, and enable new sports, art forms and modes of interaction between people. […] New communication paradigms (brain-to-brain, brain-machine-brain, group) could be realized in 10–20 years.’ []

It is not easy to tell which prospects are realistic, which to a certain extent plausible and which are total nonsense. Some scientists make incredible claims whilst others contradict them again. These claims often have utopian characteristics and seem to go beyond the border between science and science fiction. Incidentally, they are frequently presented in such a way as to create goodwill and attract financial resources. After all, impressive and perhaps, from the scientific point of view, exaggerated future scenarios have a political and ideological function too—they help to secure research funds2 and to create a certain image of these developments, either utopian or dystopian, thus steering public opinion.

Uncertainty about the facts—which expectations are realistic, which exaggerated and which altogether impossible—is great, even amongst serious scientists []. Whereas experts in cyberkinetic neurotechnology in the reputable medical journal, The Lancet, are seriously of the opinion that almost naturally-functioning, brain-driven prostheses will be possible, the editorial department of the Dutch doctors’ journal, Medisch Contact, wonders sceptically how many light-years away they are [, ]. It is precisely the convergence of knowledge and technology from very different scientific areas that makes predictions so difficult. Although claims regarding future developments sometimes seem incredible, actual functioning forms of brain-machine interaction do in fact exist, and various applications are at an advanced stage of development. Next, I will look at what is currently already possible, or what is actually being researched and developed.

Existing Brain-Machine Interactions

The first category of existing brain-machine interaction is formed by the sensory prostheses. The earliest form of brain-machine interaction is the cochlear implant, also known as the bionic ear, which has been around for about 30 years. This technology enables deaf people to hear again, by converting sound into electrical impulses that are transmitted to an electrode implanted in the inner ear, which stimulates the auditory nerve directly. While there have been fierce discussions about the desirability of the cochlear implant, nowadays they are largely accepted and are included in the normal arsenal of medical technology (e.g. []). In this same category, various research lines are currently ongoing to develop an artificial retina or ‘bionic eye’ to enable blind people to see again.

A second form of brain-machine interaction is Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). With this technique small electrodes are surgically inserted directly into the brain. These are connected to a subcutaneously implanted neurostimulator, which sends out tiny electrical pulses to stimulate a specific brain area. This technology is used for treatment of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Gilles de la Tourette’s syndrome. Many new indications are being studied experimentally, ranging from severe obsessive-compulsive disorders, addictions, and obesity to Alzheimer’s disease and depression. The use of this technique raises a number of ethical issues, like informed consent from vulnerable research subjects, the risks and side-effects, including effects on the patient’s mood and behaviour [].

More spectacular, and at an even earlier stage of development, is the third form of brain-machine interaction in which the brain controls a computer directly. This technology, called neuroprosthetics, enables people to use thought to control objects in the outside world such as the cursor of a computer or a robotic arm. It is being developed so that people with a high spinal cord lesion, like Matt Nagel mentioned in the introduction, can act and communicate again. An electrode in the brain receives the electrical impulses that the neurons in the motor cerebral cortex give off when the patient wants to make a specific movement. It then sends these impulses to a computer where they are translated into instructions to move the cursor or a robot that is connected to the computer. This technology offers the prospect that paraplegics or patients with locked in syndrome could move their own wheelchair with the aid of thought-control, communicate with others through written text or voice synthesis, pick up things with the aid of artificial limbs et cetera.

In future, the direct cortical control described above could also be used in the further development of artificial limbs (robotic arms or legs) for people who have had limbs amputated. It is already possible to receive the signals from other muscles and control a robotic arm with them (a myoelectrical prosthesis); whether the patient’s own remaining nerves can be connected directly to a prosthesis to enable it to move as though it is the patient’s own arm is now being examined. Wireless control by the cortex would be a great step in prosthetics, further enabling patient rehabilitation. Next to motor control of the prosthesis, tactile sensors are being developed and placed in artificial hands to pass on the feeling to the patient’s own remaining nerves, thus creating a sense of touch. It is claimed that this meeting of the (micro)technological and (neuro)biological sciences will in the future lead to a significant reduction in invalidity due to amputation or even its total elimination [, ].

In the fourth form of brain-machine interaction, use is made of neurofeedback. By detecting brain activity with the aid of electroencephalography (EEG) equipment, it can be made visible to the person involved. This principle is used, for instance, in a new method for preventing epileptic attacks with the aid of Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS). Changes in brainwaves can be detected and used to predict an oncoming epileptic attack. This ‘warning system’ can then generate an automatic reaction from the VNS system which stimulates the vagal nerve to prevent the attack. In time, the detection electrodes could be implanted under the skull, and perhaps the direct electrical stimulation of the cerebral cortex could be used instead of the vagal nerve []. Another type of feedback system is being developed by the American army and concerns a helmet with binoculars that can draw a soldier’s attention to a danger that his brain has subconsciously detected enabling him to react faster and more adequately. The idea is that EEG can spot ‘neural signatures’ for target detection before the conscious mind becomes aware of a potential threat or target [].

Finally, yet another technology that is currently making rapid advances is the so-called exoskeleton. Although this is not a form of brain-machine interaction in itself, it is a technology that will perhaps be eminently suitable for combination with said interaction in the future. An exoskeleton is an external structure that is worn around the body, or parts of it, to provide strength and power that the body does not intrinsically possess. It is chiefly being developed for applications in the army and in the health care sector.3 Theoretically, the movements of exoskeletons could also be controlled directly by thought if the technology of the aforementioned ‘neuroprostheses’ was to be developed further. If, in the future, the exoskeleton could also give feedback on feelings (touch, temperature and suchlike), the possibilities could be expanded still further.

Ethical Issues and Shifts in Our Symbolic Order

The developments described above raise various ethical questions, for instance about the safety, possible risks and side effects of new technologies. There are also speculations as to the moral problems or dangers that may arise in connection with further advances in this type of technologies. The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE), an influential European advisory body, warns for the risk that ICT implants will be used to control and locate people, or that they could provide third parties with access to information about the body and mind of those involved, without their permission EGE []. There are also concerns about about the position of vulnerable research subjects, patient selection and informed consent, the effects on personal identity, resource allocation and about the use of such technologies for human enhancement Over the past few years, the neuroethical discussion on such topics has been booming (e.g. [, , , , , , ]).

It has been argued that while these ethical issues are real, they do not present anything really new []. The point of departure of this article, however, is that it is not so easy to deal adequately with the moral questions raised by these new technologies because they also challenge some of the central concepts and categories that we use in understanding and answering moral questions. Hansson, for example, states that brain implants may be “reason to reconsider our criteria for personal identity and personality changes” [; p. 523]. Moreover, these new technologies may also change some elements of our common morality itself, just like the birth control pill once helped to change sexual morality []. In brief: new technologies not only influence the ways we can act, but also the symbolic order: our organizing categories and the associated views on norms and values.

The concepts and categories we, as ordinary people, use to classify our world to make it manageable and comprehensible are subject to change. These categories also play an important part in moral judgement, since they often have a normative next to a descriptive dimension. Categories such as human and machine, body and mind, sick and healthy, nature and culture, real and unreal are difficult to define precisely and the boundaries of such notions are always vague and movable. Time and again it takes ‘symbolic labour’ to reinterpret these categories and to re-conceptualise them and make them manageable in new situations. In part, this symbolic labour is being done by philosophers who explicitly work with concepts and definitions, refining and adjusting them; in part it is also a diffuse socio-cultural process of adaptation and emerging changes in symbolic order.4 Boundaries are repeatedly negotiated or won, and new concepts arise where old ones no longer fit the bill An example is the new concept of ‘brain dead’ which arose a few decades ago as a consequence of the concurrent developments in electroencephalography, artificial respiration and organ transplantation. Here the complex interplay of technology, popular categories of life and death, and scientific and philosophical understandings of these concepts is clearly demonstrated [; p. 16].

Morality, defined as our more or less shared system of norms, values and moral judgements, is also subject to change It is not a static ‘tool’ that we can apply to all kinds of new technologically induced moral problems. Technological and social developments influence and change our morality, although this does not apply equally to all its elements. Important values such as justice, well-being or personal autonomy are reasonably stable, but they are also such abstract notions that they are open to various and changing interpretations. The norms we observe in order to protect and promote our values depend on these interpretations and may require adjustment under new circumstances. Some norms are relatively fixed, others more contingent and changing []. The detailed and concrete moral rules of conduct derived from the general norms are the most contingent and changeable. The introduction of the notion brain death, for example, led to adaptations in ethical norms and regulations. Likewise, the new developments in genomics research are now challenging and changing existing rules of informed consent as well as notions of privacy and rules for privacy protection [].

In the field of brain-machine interaction we can therefore also expect that certain fixed categories that we classify our world with and that structure our thinking, will evolve alongside the new technologies. This will have consequences for the ethical questions these technologies raise and for the way in which we handle both new and familiar moral issues. A first shift that can be expected concerns the distinction between human and machine. This distinction might fade as more parts of the body can be replaced with mechanical or artificial parts that become more and more ‘real’. Secondly, we might expect a blurring of boundaries between our familiar concepts of body and mind when neuroscience and neurotechnologies increasingly present the brain as an ordinary part of our body and the mind as simply one of its ‘products’. The following sections analyse these possible shifts in the symbolic order and the associated moral questions in more detail.

Symbolic Order in Motion: The Human Machine

The blurring of the boundary between human and machine brought about by brain-machine interaction forms the first challenge to the familiar categories with which we think. The more artificial parts are inserted in and added to the human body, the more uncertainty there is about where the human stops and the machine begins. Instead of human or machine, we increasingly seem to be looking at cyborgs: human and machine in a single being.

For a long time it was easy to distinguish between people and the tools, machines or devices that they used. Gradually, however, our lives have become increasingly entangled with machines—or, in the broader sense, with technology—and we have become dependent on them for practically every facet of our daily lives. Increasingly, parts of the human body itself are replaced or supplemented by technology.5 Of course, the notion that the human body works as a machine has been a leitmotiv in western culture since Descartes; this vision has enabled modern medicine while the successes achieved substantiate the underlying beliefs about the body at the same time. The emergence of transplantation medicine was a clear step in the development of popular views on the body as a machine. Since the first kidney transplantation in 1954 and the first heart transplantation in 1967, lungs, liver, pancreas and even hands and faces have become transplantable, thus enforcing the image of the human body as a collection of replaceable parts. Some have criticised transplantation medicine because of the ensuing mechanization and commodification of the human body.

Besides organs, more and more artefacts are now being implanted in the human body: artificial heart valves, pacemakers, knees, arterial stents and subcutaneous medicine pumps. Prostheses that are attached to the body, such as artificial limbs, are becoming increasingly advanced, and are no longer easy to detach—unlike the old-fashioned wooden leg. Experiences of patients who wear prostheses seem to indicate that people rapidly adapt to using them and fuse with them to the extent that they perceive them as natural parts of themselves. Artificial parts are rapidly included in the body scheme and come to be felt as ‘ones own’.6

In a certain sense, then, we are familiar with the perception of the body as a sort of machine, and with the fact that fusing the human body with artificial parts is possible. Do technologies like neuroprostheses, artificial limbs and exoskeletons break through the boundary between human and machine in a fundamentally new, different fashion? Should the conceptual distinction between human and machine perhaps be revised? Many publications, both popular and more academic, suggest that the answer has to be yes. A notion that is often used in this connection is that of the cyborg: the human machine.


The term ‘cyborg’—derived from cybernetic organism—was coined in 1960 by Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline, American researchers who wrote about the ways in which the vulnerable human body could be technologically modified to meet the requirements of space travel and exploration. The figure of the cyborg appealed to the imagination and was introduced into popular culture by science fiction writers, filmmakers, cartoonists and game designers; famous cyborgs include The Six Million Dollar Man, Darth Vader and RoboCop. In the popular image, the cyborg thus stands for the merging of the human and the machine.

In recent literature, both popular and scientific, the cyborg has come to stand for all sorts of man-machine combinations and all manner of technological and biotechnological enhancements or modifications of the human body. With the publication of books like I, Cyborg or Cyborg Citizen, the concept now covers a whole area of biopolitical questions. Everything that is controversial around biotechnological interventions, that raises moral questions and controversy, that evokes simultaneous horror and admiration, is now clustered under the designation ‘cyborg’ [, , ].

The concept of the cyborg indicates that something is the matter, that boundaries are transgressed, familiar categorizations challenged, creating unease and uncertainty. For Donna Haraway, well-known for her Cyborg Manifesto [], the concept of the cyborg stands for all the breaches of boundaries and disruptions of order, not merely for the specific breaking through of the distinction between human and machine which concerns me here. The term cyborg can thus be used to describe our inability to categorize some new forms of human life or human bodies. The use of the term compels us to delay categorization—in familiar terms of human or machine—at least for the moment and so creates a space for further exploration.


Following Mary Douglas, Martijntje Smits has called these kind of entities that defy categorization and challenge the familiar symbolic order monsters []. Smits discusses four strategies for treating these monsters, four ways of cultural adaptation to these new entities and the disruption they bring about.

The first strategy, embracing the monster, is clearly reflected in the pronouncements of adherents of the transhumanist movement. They welcome all manner of biotechnological enhancements of humans, believe in the exponential development of the possibilities to this end and place the cyborg, almost literally, on a pedestal. The second strategy is the opposite of the first and entails exorcizing the monster. Neo-Luddites or bioconservatives see biotechnology in general and the biotechnological enhancement of people in particular, as a threat to the existing natural order. They frequently refer to human nature, traditional categories and values and norms when attacking and trying to curb the new possibilities. To them, the cyborg is a real monster that has to be stopped and exorcized.

The third strategy is that of adaptation of the monster. Endeavours are made to classify the new phenomenon in terms of existing categories after all. Adaptation seems to be what is happening with regard to existing brain-machine interaction. The conceptual framework here is largely formed by the familiar medical context of prostheses and aids. The designation of the electrodes and chips implanted in the brain as neuroprostheses, places them in the ethical area of therapy, medical treatment, the healing of the sick and support of the handicapped. As long as something that was naturally present but is now lost due to sickness or an accident is being replaced, brain-machine interaction can be understood as therapy and therefore accepted within the ethical limits normally assigned to medical treatments. However, for non-medical applications the problem of classifications remains. Prostheses to replace functions that have been lost may be accepted relatively easily, but how are we going to regard enhancements or qualitative changes in functions such as the addition of infrared vision to the human visual faculty? Are we only going to allow the creation of cyborgs for medical purposes, or also for military goals, or for relaxation and entertainment?

Finally, the fourth strategy is assimilation of the monster, whereby existing categories and concepts are adjusted or new ones introduced.7 In the following I will suggest that the concept of the person—in the sense in which it is used in ethics, rather than in common language—may be useful for this purpose.

Morality of Persons

In the empirical sense, cyborgs, or blends of human bodies with mechanical parts, are gradually becoming less exceptional. It therefore seems exaggerated to view people with prostheses or implants as something very exceptional or to designate them as a separate class. And this raises the question of why we should really worry about the blurring of the distinction between human and machine? This is not merely because the mixing of the flesh with steel or silicone intuitively bothers us, or because the confusion about categories scares us. More fundamentally, I believe this is because the distinction between the human and the machine also points to a significant moral distinction. The difference between the two concepts is important because it indicates a moral dividing line between two different normative categories. For most of our practices and everyday dealings the normative distinction between human and machine matters. You just treat people differently to machines—with more respect and care—and you expect something else from people than you expect from machines—responsibility and understanding, for example. Human beings deserve praise and blame for their actions while machines cannot. The important question is therefore whether brain-machine interfaces will somehow affect the moral status of the people using them []. Do we still regard a paralysed patient with a brain implant and an exoskeleton as a human being, or do we see him as a machine? Will we consider someone with two bionic legs to be a human being or a machine?

I belief that in part this also depends on the context and the reasons for wanting to make the distinction. In the context of athletic competition, the bionic runner may be disqualified because of his supra-human capacities. In this context, he is ‘too much of a machine’ to grant fair competition with fully biological human beings. However, in the context of everyday interaction with others, a person with bionic legs is just as morally responsible for his actions as any other person. In this sense he clearly is human and not a machine. This is because, with regard to moral status, the human being as an acting, responsible moral agent is identified more with the mind than with the body. The mind is what matters in the moral sense. Whether this mind controls a wheelchair with the aid of hands, or electrical brain-generated pulses, is irrelevant to the question of who controls the wheelchair: the answer in both cases is the person concerned. Whether someone is paralysed or not does not alter the question of whether he or she is a person or not; it will of course affect the kind of person he or she is but whether he or she is a person depends on his or her mental capacities. Ethical theories consider the possession of some minimal set of cognitive, conative and affective capacities as a condition for personhood. This means that, ethically speaking, under certain conditions, intelligent primates or Martians could be considered persons while human babies or extremely demented old people would not. Whatever the exact criteria one applies, there is no reason to doubt the fact that someone who is paralysed, someone who controls a robot by remote or someone who has a DBS electrode is a person. Certain moral entitlements, obligations and responsibilities are connected to that state of ‘being a person’. This notion therefore helps to resolve the confusion surrounding the cyborg. Rather than classifying him as either man or machine, we should be looking at personhood. Personhood is what really matters morally and this is not necessarily affected by brain-machine interfaces. As long as they do not affect personhood, brain-machine interfaces are no more special than other types of prosthesis, implants or instrumental aids that we have already grown used to.

New Views on Physical Integrity?

Nevertheless, brain-machine interfaces may in some cases cause new moral issues. A concrete example that can illustrate how shifting catagories can affect concepts and ethics is that of physical integrity. How should this important ethical and legal principle be interpreted when applied to cyborgs? The principle itself is not under discussion. We want to continue to guard and protect physical integrity. The question is, however, how to define the concept ‘body’ now that biological human bodies are becoming increasingly fused with technology and where to draw the line between those plastic, metal or silicone parts that do belong to that body and the parts that do not.

In the spring of 2007 the Dutch media paid attention to an asylum seeker who had lost an arm as a result of torture in his native country and had received a new myoelectrical prosthesis in the Netherlands. He just got used to the arm and was trained in using it naturally when it became apparent that there were problems with the insurance and he would have to return the prosthesis. Evidently, according to the regulations a prosthesis does not belong to the body of the person in question and it does not enjoy the protection of physical integrity. However, the loss of an arm causes a great deal of damage to the person, whether the arm is natural or a well-functioning prosthesis. If prostheses become more intimately connected to and integrated with the body (also through tactile sensors) such that they become incorporated in the body scheme and are deemed a natural part of the body by the person concerned, it seems there must come a point at which such a prosthesis should be seen as belonging to the (body of the) person concerned from the moral and legal point of view. It has even been questioned whether the interception of signals that are transmitted by a wireless link from the brain to a computer or artificial limb, should perhaps also fall under the protection of physical integrity []

Symbolic Order in Motion: Body-Mind

In the previous section I assumed the distinction between body and mind to be clear-cut. The common view is that the mind controls the body (whether this body is natural or artificial) and that the mind is the seat of our personhood, and of consciousness, freedom and responsibility. In this section I examine how this view might change under the influence of new brain-machine interactions and neuroscientific developments in general and what implications this may have for ethics. I will concentrate on DBS, since this brain-machine technique has at present the clearest impact on human mind and behaviour.8 Of course, however, our categories and common views will not change because of one single new technique—rather, it is the whole constellation of neuroscientific research and (emerging) applications that may change the ways in which we understand our minds and important related concepts.

The Mind as Machine

Neuroprostheses and other brain-machine interactions call into question the demarcation between body and mind, at least in the popular perception. Technologies such as neuroprosthetics and DBS make very clear the fact that physical intervention in the brain has a direct effect on the mind of the person in question. By switching the DBS electrode on or off, the behaviour, feelings and thoughts of the patient can be changed instantly. Thoughts of a paralysed person can be translated directly into electrical pulses and physical processes. As a result of neuroscience and its applications the human mind comes to be seen more and more as a collection of neurones, a system of synapses, neurotransmitters and electrical conductors. A very complex system perhaps, but a physical system nonetheless, that can be connected directly to other systems.

For some, this causes moral concern, since it may lead us to see ourselves merely in mechanical terms:

‘The obvious temptation will be to see advances in neuroelectronics as final evidence that man is just a complex machine after all, that the brain is just a computer, that our thoughts and identity are just software. But in reality, our new powers should lead us to a different conclusion: even though we can make the brain compatible with machines to serve specific functions, the thinking being is a being of very different sorts.’ [; p. 40–41]

I believe this change in our popular view of the mind that Keiper fears is actually already taking place. Neuroscientific knowledge and understanding penetrate increasingly into our everyday lives, and it is becoming more normal to understand our behaviour and ourselves in neurobiological terms. This shift is for example noticeable in the rise of biological psychiatry. Many psychiatric syndromes that were still understood in psychoanalytical or psychodynamic terms until well into the second half of the twentieth century, are now deemed biological brain diseases. The shift is also noticeable in the discussion on the biological determinants of criminal behaviour (and opportunities to change such behaviour by intervening in the brain) or in the increased attention for the biological and evolutionary roots of morality. Also in popular magazines and books, our behaviour and ourselves are increasingly presented as the direct result of our brains’ anatomy and physiology.

Scientific and technological developments have contributed to this shift. The development of EEG in the first half of the last century revealed the electrical activity of the brain for the first time, thus creating the vision of the brain as the wiring of the mind. The development of psychiatric drugs in the second half of the last century also helped naturalize our vision of the mind, picturing the brain as a neurochemical ‘soup’, a collection of synapses, neurotransmitters and receptors []. More recently the PET scan and the fMRI have made it possible to look, as it were, inside the active brain. The fact that fMRI produces such wonderful pictures of brains ‘in action’ contributes to our mechanical view of the relation between brain and behaviour. Certain areas of the brain light up if we make plans, others if an emotional memory is evoked; damage in one area explains why the psychopath has no empathy, a lesion in another correlates with poor impulse control or hot-headedness. While neurophilosophers have warned against the oversimplified idea that images are just like photographs that show us directly how the brain works, these beautiful, colourful images appeal to scientists and laymen alike [].

According to Nikolas Rose, we have come to understand ourselves increasingly in terms of a biomedical body, and our personalities and behaviour increasingly in terms of the brain. He says that a new way of thinking has taken shape: ‘In this way of thinking, all explanations of mental pathology must ‘pass through’ the brain and its neurochemistry—neurones, synapses, membranes, receptors, ion channels, neurotransmitters, enzymes, etc.’ [; p. 57]

We are experiencing what he calls a ‘neurochemical reshaping of personhood’ [; p. 59]. Likewise, Mooij has argued that the naturalistic determinism of the neurosciences is also catching on in philosophy and has now spread broadly in the current culture ‘that is to a large extent steeped in this biological thinking, in which brain and person more or less correspond’ [; p.77].

The mind is being seen more and more as a physical, bodily object (the ‘the mind = the brain’ idea), and given that the human body, as described above, has long been understood in mechanical terms, the equal status of the mind and brain means that the mind can also be understood in mechanical terms. As the basic distinction between mind and machine seems to drop away the distinction between human and machine once more raises its head, but now on a more fundamental and extremely relevant level, morally speaking. If in fact our mind, the seat of our humanity, is also a machine, how should we understand personhood in the morally relevant sense? How can we hold on to notions such as free will and moral responsibility?

Neuroscientific Revisionism

A recent notion amongst many neuroscientists and some neurophilosophers is that our experience of having a self, a free will or agency, is based on a misconception. The self as a regulating, controlling authority does not exist, but is only an illusion produced by the brain.9 From this notion it seems to follow that there is no such thing as free will and that there can therefore be no real moral responsibility. Within philosophy revisionists, who claim that our retributive intuitions and practices are unwarranted under determinism, claim that this view obliges us to revise our responsibility-attributing practices, including our legal system. Revisionism implies the need to replace some of our ordinary concepts with new ones. It has, for example, been suggested to substitute blame with ‘dispraise’ [] or to eliminate concepts connected to desert like blame, moral praise, guilt and remorse, altogether []. On a revisionist account, praise, blame and punishment are just devices that modify conduct, and that can be more or less effective, but not more or less deserved.

Greene and Cohen assume that because of the visible advances in the neurosciences—and I take brain-machine interfaces to be part of those—the naturalistic deterministic view on human behaviour will by degrees be accepted by more and more people, and revisionism will catch on []. To their way of thinking, our moral intuitions and our folk psychology will slowly adapt to the overwhelming evidence the neurosciences present us with. The technologies enabled on the basis of neuroscientific understanding, such as DBS, neurofeedback, psychiatric drugs, and perhaps also intelligent systems or intelligent robots, can contribute to this. Little by little we will hold people less responsible and liable for their actions, according to Greene and Cohen, but will see them increasingly as determined beings who can be regulated, more or less effectively, by sanctions or rewards. They allege that questions concerning free will and responsibility will lose their power in an age in which the mechanistic nature of the human decision process will be totally understood. This will also have consequences for the legal system. ‘The law will continue to punish misdeeds, as it must for practical reasons, but the idea of distinguishing the truly, deeply guilty from those who are merely victims of neuronal circumstances will, we submit, seem pointless.’ ([; p. 1781])

Greene and Cohen, like other revisionists, advocate a shift in the nature of our criminal justice system, from a retributive to a consequentialistic system. This means a shift from a system based on liability and retribution to one based on effects and effectiveness of punishment. A consequentialistic system of this kind is, in their opinion, in keeping with the true scientific vision of hard determinism and the non-existence of free will. Greene and Cohen recognize that many people will intuitively continue to think in terms of free will and responsibility. What is more, they think that this intuitive reflex has arisen through evolution and is deeply rooted in our brains. We can hardly help thinking in these sorts of terms, despite the fact that we know better, scientifically speaking. Nonetheless, Greene and Cohen insist that we should base important, complex matters such as the criminal justice system10 on the scientific truth about ourselves and not allow ourselves to be controlled by persistent, but incorrect, intuitions.

Moral Responsibility Reconsidered

A whole body of literature has accumulated refuting this thesis and arguing that new neuroscientific evidence need not influence our moral and legal notions of responsibility (e.g. []). This literature reflects the dominant position in the determinism debate nowadays, that of compatibilism. According to compatibilism determinism is reconcilable with the existence of a free will, and with responsibility. As long as we can act on the basis of reasons and as long as we are not coerced, we are sufficiently free to carry responsibility and the naturalistic neuroscientific explanatory model of behaviour is therefore not necessarily a threat to our free will and responsibility, according to the compatibilist. The question is, however, whether the compatibilist’s philosophical argumentation also convinces the average layman or neuroscientist, certainly in the light of new experimental findings and technical possibilities. How popular views on this topic will develop remains to be seen.

At the moment even adherents of the revisionist view seem convinced that we will never be able to stop thinking, or even think less, in terms of intentions, reasons, free will and responsibility. It seems almost inconceivable not to hold one another responsible for deeds and behaviour [].

Nevertheless, neuroscientific research does challenge our view of ourselves as rational, autonomous and moral beings []. Research shows us, for example, that many if not most of our actions automatic, unconsciously initiated and only some of our actions are deliberate and consciously based on reasons. Our rationality, moreover, is limited by various biases, like confirmation bias, hyperbolic discounting, false memories et cetera. New findings in neuroscience, such as the fact that immaturity of the frontal lobes impedes the capacities for reasoning, decision making and impulse control in adolescents, or that exercise of self-constraint eventually leads to exhaustion of the capacity for self-control (ego-depletion), do necessitate us to re-think the ways in which or the degrees to which we are actually morally responsible is specific situations and circumstances (see for example the series of articles on addiction and responsibility in AJOB Neuroscience 2007).

A more naturalized view of the human mind could thus still have important consequences, even if we do not jettison the notion of moral responsibility altogether. More grounds for ‘absence of criminal responsibility’ could, for example, be acknowledged in criminal law, whereby new technologies could play a role. Functional brain scans might provide more clarity on the degree to which an individual has control over his or her own behaviour.

Prosthetic Responsibility?

Due to their ability to directly influence complex human behaviour by intervening in the brain, brain-machine interfaces may raise interesting issues of responsibility, even when we reject revisionism, as can be illustrated by the following case of a 62 year old Parkinson patient treated with DBS.11

After implantation of the electrodes, this patient became euphoric and demonstrated unrestrained behaviour: he bought several houses that he could not really pay for; he bought various cars and got involved in traffic accidents; he started a relationship with a married woman and showed unacceptable and deviant sexual behaviour towards nurses; he suffered from megalomania and, furthermore, did not understand his illness at all. He was totally unaware of any problem. Attempts to improve his condition by changing the settings of the DBS failed as the manic characteristics disappeared but the patient’s severe Parkinson’s symptoms reappeared. The patient was either in a reasonable motor state but in a manic condition lacking any self reflection and understanding of his illness, or bedridden in a non-deviant mental state. The mania could not be treated by medication [].

Who was responsible for the uninhibited behaviour of the patient in this case? Was that still the patient himself, was it the stimulator or the neurosurgeon who implanted and adjusted the device? In a sense, the patient was ‘not himself’ during the stimulation; he behaved in a way that he never would have done without the stimulator.12 That behaviour was neither the intended nor the predicted result of the stimulation and it therefore looks as though no one can be held morally responsible for it. However, in his non-manic state when, according to his doctors, he was competent to express his will and had a good grasp of the situation, the patient chose to have the stimulator switched on again. After lengthy deliberations the doctors complied with his wishes. To what extent were his doctors also responsible for his manic behaviour? After all, they knew the consequences of switching on the stimulator again. To what extent was the patient himself subsequently to blame for getting into debt and bothering nurses?

For such decisions, the notion of ‘diachronic responsibility’ [] can be of use, indicating that a person can take responsibility for his future behaviour by taking certain actions. Suppose, for example, that DBS would prove an effective treatment for addiction, helping people to stay off drugs, alcohol or gambling, could it then rightly be considered a ‘prosthesis for willpower’ [], or even a prosthesis for responsibility? I believe that technologies that enable us to control our own behaviour better—as DBS might do in the case of addiction, or in the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder—can be understood in terms of diachronic responsibility and self-control, and thus enhance autonomy and responsibility [].

Future applications of brain-machine interaction may raise further questions: suppose a doctor would adjust the settings of DBS without consent from the patient and cause behaviour the patient claimed not to identify with—who would then be responsible? As Clausen has pointed out, neuroprostheses may challenge our traditional concept of responsibility when imperfections in the system lead to involuntary actions of the patient []. Likewise, if the wireless signals of a neuroprosthesis were incidentally or deliberately disrupted, it would be questionable who would be responsible for the ensuing ‘actions’ of the patient.

Clearly, even without major shifts in our views on free will and responsibility, brain-machine interfaces will require us to consider questions of responsibility.


The convergence of neuroscientific knowledge with bio-, nano-, and information technology is already beginning to be fruitful in the field of brain-machine interaction, with applications like DBS, neuroprosthesis and neurofeedback. It is hard to predict the specific applications awaiting us in the future, although there is no shortage of wild speculations. The emergence of new technical possibilities also gives rise to shifts in our popular understanding of basic categories, and to some new moral issues. The boundaries of the human body are blurring and must be laid down anew; our views on what it is to be a person, to have a free will and to have responsibility are once more up for discussion. In this article I have explored how these shifts in categories and concepts might work out.

I have argued that the distinction between human and machine, insofar as it concerns a morally relevant distinction, does not have to be given up immediately because increasingly far-reaching physical combinations are now being made between human and mechanical parts. Depending on the context and the reasons we have for wanting to make a distinction, we will draw the line between human and machine differently. In the context of sports, a bionic limb may disqualify its user for being too much of a ‘machine’ while in another context such a limb may be qualified as an integral part of a human being and be protected under the right to physical integrity. Important general moral questions that lie behind the confusion about categories of human and machine concern moral responsibility and moral status. The concept of a person, as used in ethical theory to designate moral actors, is more precise and more useful in this context than the general category of the ‘human’ or the poly-interpretable notion of the ‘cyborg’.

In the most radical scenario of shifts in our symbolic order, the concept of ‘person’ may also come under pressure. As I have shown based on Greene and Cohen’s vision, the person as a being with a free will and moral responsibility, and as a moral actor, should, according to some, disappear from the stage altogether. Implementing such a neuroreductionistic vision on the mind and free will would have clear consequences for criminal law: it would have to be revised to a consequentialist, neo-behaviouristic system. People would then barely be considered to be morally responsible beings but be seen as systems that respond to praise and blame in a mechanical fashion. I believe it is unlikely that such a shift in our popular views will come about, because the intuitive appeal of the notion of responsibility, and because there are many good arguments to resist this shift. Even if we do not jettison responsibility altogether, however, brain-machine interactions raise many interesting questions regarding distribution and attribution of responsibility.

A general lesson for ethics of emerging technologies is that such technologies necessitate renewed consideration and reinterpretation of important organizing concepts and distinctions that are crucial to moral judgement. The symbolic labour required to answer such conceptual and normative questions is at least as important for the development of converging technologies as the technical-scientific labour involved.


Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


1See his website for these and other future forecasts

2A lot of research in the field of brain-machine interaction and other converging technologies is carried out by DARPA, the American Ministry of Defence research institute. In 2003, for example, DARPA subsidized research into brain-machine interfaces to the tune of 24 million dollars [, ].

3In the former case, these applications might enable soldiers to carry heavy rucksacks more easily, in the latter they could, for example, help a nurse to lift a heavy patient on his or her own.

4How these processes interact with one another and how socio-cultural changes influence philosophical thinking and vice versa is an interesting and complicated question, that I cannot start to answer here.

5Not that this is an entirely new phenomenon, seeing that all sorts of bodily prostheses have existed for centuries; the first artificial leg dates back to 300 before Christ. Other prostheses that we more or less attach to our bodies are, for instance, spectacles, hairpieces and hearing aids. But the insertion of external parts into the human body is more recent.

6More attention has recently been paid to the importance of the body for the development and working of our consciousness. In the Embodied Mind model, body and mind are seen far more as interwoven than in the past (e.g. []). This can have even further implications for brain-machine interaction; if for example, neuroprostheses change our physical, bodily dealings with the world, this may also have consequences for the development of the brain and for our consciousness. Neuroscientists have even claimed that: ‘It may sound like science fiction but if human brain regions involved in bodily self-consciousness were to be monitored and manipulated online via a machine, then not only will the boundary between user and robot become unclear, but human identity may change, as such bodily signals are crucial for the self and the ‘I’ of conscious experience’ []

7The distinction between adaptation and assimilation is not very clear—it depends on what one would wish to call an ‘adaptation’ or ‘adjustment’ of a concept.

8By contrast, in the case of the neuroprosthesis discussed in the previous section, it is mainly the mind that influences the body, through the interface.

9‘Obviously we have thoughts. Ad nauseam, one might say. What is deceptive, is the idea that these thoughts control our behaviour. In my opinion, that idea is no more than a side effect of our social behaviour. […] The idea that we control our deeds with our thoughts, that is an illusion’, says cognitive neuroscientist Victor Lamme, echoing his collegue Wegner. [; p. 22, ].

10Likewise, moral views on responsibility may change. An instrumental, neo-behaviouristic vision on morality and the moral practice of holding one another responsible might arise. Holding one another responsible may still prove a very effective way of regulating behaviour, even if it is not based on the actual existence of responsibility and free will. As long people change their behaviour under the influence of moral praise and blame, there is no reason to throw the concept of responsibility overboard. From this point of view, there would be no relevant difference anymore between a human being and any other system that would be sensitive to praise and blame, such as an intelligent robot or computer system. If such a system would be sensitive to moral judgements and respond to them with the desired behaviour on this view they would qualify as much as moral actors as human beings would.

11This case also been discussed by [, , ].

12Of course, this problem is not exclusive for DBS; some medications can have similar effects. However, with DBS the changes are more rapid and more specific and can be controlled literally by a remote control (theoretically, the patients behaviour can thus be influenced without the patient’s approval once the electrode is in his brain). These characteristics do make DBS different from more traditional means of behaviour influencing, though I agree with an anonymous reviewer that this is more a matter of degree than an absolute qualitative difference.


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The psychoacoustic effect of infrasonic, sonic and ultrasonic frequencies within non-lethal military warfare techniques.

The psychoacoustic effect of infrasonic, sonic and ultrasonic frequencies within non-lethal military warfare techniques.

Exploring the use of audio to influence humans physically and psychologically as a means of non-lethal warfare methods throughout both the 20th and the 21st century.

Infrasonic Frequencies

The term ‘infrasound’ defines itself as the inaudible frequency range below the human bandwidth of around 20Hz. When discussing infrasound, it’s often associated with acts of

nature, sources such as the Fuego volcano in Guatemala emitted 120 decibels of infrasonic sound ranging around 10Hz (Georgia State University, no date). It is with occurrences like this that calls for a large amount of infrasonic monitoring to counter natural disaster detection. Beyond the use of infrasound detection, this frequency range, of which is inaudible to us, has been researched throughout the decades to investigate its effects on the human body. One of which is it’s application to military usage.

Throughout the 20th and 21st century, there has been a vast amount of research collected and interest gained in the use of non-lethal weapons (NLW), which are intended to immobilise or impair targets without causing permanent or severe damage to the human body. As technologies have developed, it’s apparent that military bodies within the world seek to create weapons resulting in “war’s without death” (Scott & Monitor, 2010). However, it is within the creation of new weapons that many issues arise, which perhaps may be a reason there is little evidence for the deployment of NLW. It’s apparent that some concepts of using infrasound may violate disarmament treaties, for example, the 1999 European Committee stated:

“global ban on all research and development, whether military or civilian, which seeks to apply knowledge of the chemical, electrical, sound vibration or other functioning of the human brain to the development of human beings, including a ban on actual or possible deployment of such systems” (Giordano, 2014).

Thus, this may result in military bodies taking a critical view before the acceptance of research to be made. However, it is important to understand at this point within this study, that this does not just encompass infrasonic sound but also applies to ultrasonic sound too.

Despite this, it is the alleged properties that infrasound, when applied correctly to humans, that have allowed for the field to be of interest within military application. Within Table 1 we can see a notable number of applications that infrasound could possibly or has been applied for:

Infrasound has resulted in a large amount of interest within the creation of NLW. It is apparent that given the technical depth that infrasound can be applied to within weaponry, a very in depth analysis of each device would be required. The present chapter within this text will analyse research collated that will allow for a greater insight into the application of infrasound on the human body, thus allowing us to formulate a background before exploring the outcome of the research tested within this study.

Physical and Psychological Effects

Infrasound has been utilised as a means of sonic warfare for physical human impact, dating back to World War 1. Acoustic imaging was the primitive use of infrasonic sound during World War 2, for the use of radar and sonar techniques in order to detect locations of enemy artillery (Ihde, 2015). Despite there bing many references to acoustic weaponry, as early as World War 2, it is in the 1960’s that actual documented research becomes more available. As described in, Secret Weapons of the Third Reich (E. Simon, 1971), one such device is discussed:

“…design consisted of a parabolic reflector, 3.2 meters in diameter, having a short tube which was the combustion chamber or sound generator, extending to the rear from the vertex of the parabola. The chamber was fed at the rear by two coaxial nozzles, the outer nozzle emitting methane, and the central nozzle oxygen. The length of the chamber was one- quarter the wavelength of the sound in air. Upon initiation, the first shock wave was reflected back from the openend of the chamber and initiated the second explosion. The frequency was from 800 to 1500 impulses per second. The main lobe of the sound intensity pattern had a 65 degree angle of opening, and at 60 meters’ distance on the axis a pressure of 1000 microbars had been measured. No physiological experiments were conducted, but it was estimated that at such a pressure it would take from 30 to 40 seconds to kill a man. At greater ranges, perhaps up to 300 meters, the effect, although not lethal, would be very painful and would probably disable a man for an appreciable length of time. Vision would be affected, and low- level exposures would cause point sources of light to appear as lines.”

This device, known as the ‘Wirbelwind Kanonew’ , is perhaps the only known fully developed infrasonic weapon created in order to physically effect it’s target, with the intention of countering enemy aircraft and infantry by creating a vortex of sound (Crab, 2008). Moreover, there are cases that perhaps suggest a possible application of infrasound to cause physical damage to the ear drum. (Harding, Bohne, Lee, & Salt, 2007) cites that frequency ranges around 4Hz, at high decibels, are perhaps able damage parts of the ear drum. The vibrational movement created by the infrasonic frequency result in large fluid movements of cochlear fluid, the intermixing of cochlear fluid is hypothesised to result in lasting damage. There are however, in contrary to this, studies also suggest the mechanisms of the ear have a normal reaction to infrasonic sound. As preciously mentioned, the central mechanism of the ear is the cochlear; within the cochlear there are two sensory cells, the inner hair cells (IHC) and the outer hair cells (OHC) (Cook, 1999). IHC responses are dependant on velocity and due to the fluid within the ear, the stimulus lowers as the frequency lowers; in contrast, OHC have a greater response to low frequency ranges such as infrasound. As a result, the effect of infrasound on IHC’s within the ear, could be suggested as inefficient thus resulting in infrasound’s effect on the ear, physically, being normal (Salt & Hullar, 2010). However, this does not suggest that the effect of infrasound on both IHC and OHC do not have a psychological effect on the brain. Exposure to levels above 80db between 0.5Hz and 10Hz causing these possible vibrational movements within the ear’s functions, are said to cause psychological changes such as fear, sorrow, depression, anxiety, nausea, chest pressure and hallucinations (ECRIP, 2008). It is the result of this effect in the middle ear, that (Goodman, 2010 p. 18) cites as being discovered by military personnel during World War 1 and World War 2.

The effect of emotional and psychological change as a result of infrasonic exposure can later be found during the second Indochina war. In 1973, The United States deployed the Urban Funk Campaign, a psychoacoustic attack during the war with the intention of altering mental states of their enemies (Goodman, 2010). The device utilised both infrasonic and ultrasonic frequencies, which emitted high decibel oscillations from a mounted helicopter onto the Vietnamese ground troops (Toffler, Alvin, & Toffler, 1995). Though there is no record of the specification of this device, one can assume that the U.S Military had tested the infrasonic frequency ranges in order to achieve a psychological effect on it’s targets. As previously cited by (Goodman, 2010), it is documented that the frequency range of 7Hz is thought to instil effects of uneasiness, anxiety, fear and anger. (Walonick, 1990) reports in a experiment that below 8Hz had caused agitation and uneasiness for participants. Goodman also supports this discussing “It has been noted that certain infrasonic frequencies plug straight into the algorithms of the brain and nervous system. Frequencies of 7 hertz, for example, coincide with theta rhythms, thought to induce moods of fear and anger.” (Goodman, 2010). It is within the psychological change that we begin to question the reasoning behind it, many of the studies in the next chapter of this study suggest that resonance is perhaps the reason as to why there could be an emotional and psychological change to human’s when exposed to infrasonic frequencies.


All objects have a property known as their resonant frequency, this involves the “re- enforcement of vibrations of a receiving system due to a similarity to the frequencies of the source” (Pellegrino & Productions, 1996). It is this property that is held within all matter, that we can apply sound as a means of resonance within the human body. It is resonance within the human body that is thought to create the psychological effects of that mentioned in the previous chapter.

Limited literature within the infrasonic frequency range allows for an array of research speculating conspiracies within the utilisation of infrasonic frequency ranges as a means of non-lethal weaponry and crowd control. As a result, this could lead to a plausible suggestion that military application of non-lethal audio weapons have not been made publicly available. A large influence on the development and notable usages of infrasonic frequencies as a means of deterrence, was the development of a low-frequency acoustic device by French scientist Vladimir Gavreau (Lothes, 2004). It is reported that Gavreau had discovered the infrasound weapon by result of a resonant frequency being emitted from a motor-driven ventilator within his office (Vassilatos, no date). Following this, Gavreau developed a device that emitted infrasonic sine wave frequencies around 7hertz, with military application, (Vassilatos, no date) said to induce painful symptoms effecting his laboratory staff with immediate effect, other results are reported of the likes of the feeling of fear and flight. Following this discovery Gavreau made discussions that highlighted the effect of infrasonic frequencies to humans, citing it as a possible cause of city dwellers’ stress (Broner, 2003). Gavreau’s discovery within this field has been largely researched and discussed throughout the acoustic warfare field. Vinokur, drew from Gavreau’s invention stating within his publication The Case of the Mythical Beast. (Vinokur, 1993)

“. . . sound with a frequency of less than 16 Hz is inaudible. It’s called infrasound, and its effect on human beings is not completely understood. We do know, however, that high- intensity infrasound causes headache, fatigue, and anxiety . . . Our internal organs (heart, liver, stomach, kidneys) are attached to the bones by elastic connective tissue, and at low frequencies may be considered simple oscillators. The natural frequencies of most of them are below 12 Hz (which is in the infrasonic range). Thus, the organs may resonate. Of course, the amplitude of any resonance vibrations depends significantly on damping, which transforms mechanical energy into thermal energy . . . this amplitude decreases as the damping increases. Also, the amplitude is proportional to the amplitude of the harmonic force causing the vibrations . . .”

It is also apparent that such frequencies have been used in many varying fields to provide evidence of it’s existence, exterior to military and police usage. Furthermore, British physiology researchers O’Keeffe & Angliss conducted an experiment to test the effects of infrasonic frequencies on the human brain in 2003. The method was conducted by playing 4 musical pieces to 700 participants two of which had 17hertz frequencies played unknowingly to the participants during the piece. Results found that 22% of the participants experienced a feeling of anxiety and fear (Stathatos, no date). A similar experiment entitled ‘The Haunt Project’ conducted by the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit of Goldsmiths College, London, subjected 79 volunteers to a varying array of infrasonic frequencies. The primary analysis of the study cites that “63 (79.7%) of the participants felt dizzy or odd, 9 (11.4%) experienced sadness, 7 (8.9%) experienced terror” (French, Haque, Bunton- Stasyshyn, & Davis, 2009). It’s not unreasonable to state that within a varying amount of research conducted in this field, there is little evidence to suggest why infrasound actually has an effect on human emotion. Acoustic scientists investigating the result of noise pollution on workers determine that every organ within the human body has a resonant frequency and it’s own ‘acoustic properties’, this effect is discussed as a possible means as to why frequency has an effect on the human body (Prashanth & Venugopalachar, 2010). Additionally to this, Mahindra states that the resonant frequency of the eyeball has a direct effect on emotional states of anxiety & stress (Prashanth & Venugopalachar, 2010). (Braithwaite, 2006), who also have researched infrasonic resonance, cite that the change to fearful emotions may be a direct response to infrasound inducing resonance within the human eyeball. To support this statement, it’s also apparent within research conducted by NASA (Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory, 1976) that the resonant frequency of the human eyeball sits at around 18hertz, just below the audible range of the human ear. Referring back to the use of 7Hz frequency, additional support is gathered with many texts referring to resonant frequencies within the body, with the likes of (Broner, 2003) stating “…it has also been alleged that this is the resonant frequency of the body’s organs…”. One could perhaps draw a conclusion that resonance could be the catalyst for psychological change when exposed to infrasonic sound. The result of resonant frequencies within the body allow for a direct correspondence to the frequency rhythms within the brain, which cohere with the emotional state of every human. (Davies & Honours, no date) cites that “Many of the most profound effects of sound are attributed to infrasound in the region of 7Hz. This corresponds with the median alpha-rhythm frequencies of the brain.”. In addition to this, we also see discussed by (Sargeant, 2001):

“The frequency that is thought to be most dangerous to humans is between 7 and 8Hz. This is the resonant frequency of flesh and, theoretically, it can rupture internal organs if loud enough. Seven hertz is also the average frequency of the brain’s alpha rhythms; thus this frequency has been described as dangerous but also relaxing. Whether exposure to such infrasound can trigger epileptic seizures, as some fear, remains unclear; experimental data on exposure to such frequencies gives a variety of results. It should be noted, however, that the strobe light effect associated with triggering epileptic seizures flashes at an equivalent rhythm. Frequencies below 50Hz commonly lose their coherence and are perceived to pulse or fluctuate, which is analogous to the strobing beat of a modulated light.”

It is apparent that the frequency range sitting around 7Hz has been widely discussed as changing a subject emotional state when exposed. As a result of this research, the study will gather primary research to understand the effect of 7Hz on the human body, and analyse the emotional effect it has within formulated within this study.

Sonic Frequencies

The frequency that forms our own perception of sound sits between 20Hz — 20,000Hz, though only constituting a small amount of frequency spectrum, our auditory range can play an important role on our body; such as our equilibrioception (balance), proprioception and kinaesthesia (joint motion and acceleration), time, nociception (pain), magnetoception (direction), and thermoception (temperature differences) (HEYS, 2011). In order to full understand how the military application of sound can impact subjects psychologically, we must first understand how sound effects us mentally. Drawing from research collated pioneers within the sound-emotion connection, (Berlyne, 1971), (Meyer & Meyer, 1961), (Juslin & Sloboda, 2001) & (Liljeström, 2011) suggest six main mechanisms that happen when we perceive sound:

  • Brain Stem Reflex is the effect of the brain recognising the acoustic properties of a sound, signalling the brain to react instinctively. Much similar to that of the American ‘Long Range Acoustic Device’ discussed later within this section.
  • Evaluative conditioning is the effect of association between setting and sound; if the brain has heard a specific sound repeatedly in a specific setting, this triggers an emotional connection between the two.
  • Emotional contagion is the perception of emotion expressed in certain sounds, whether or not the audio sounds sad, the association is recognised by the brain as an expression of emotion.
  • Visual imagery relates to the brains association between a certain sound and a visual image or sensation.
  • Episodic memory is the effect of the brain recognising sound as a memory, evoking the thought of stations to which a memory of sound was present.
  • Sound expectancy is the brains mechanism of expecting how a sound will hear through previous experience.
  • It is these mechanisms within the brain that aid us to draw the association between techniques developed for military application and sound in order to alter the state of mind of subjects. Whether it is by creating resonance within the brain or allowing for association between a sound and setting, many key pieces of research provide insight into the use of these techniques. It is with these mechanisms that we can gain an understanding as to why audible sound can effect our mental state.

Psychological Effects

The use of sound within our auditory range has been used to effect targets negatively from the mid-1900s. After analysing previously explored research within this field, a large amount of research refers to the United State’s military and their Psychological Operations Units (PsyOps) (United States Military, 1996). In many cases, we see the application of sound utilised in order to effect the six mechanisms discussed in chapter 3.2, allowing them to apply the use of sound for non-lethal warfare. As early as World War 2, we see strong evidence for the the deployment of sound, used in order to effect the psychology of enemies. The U.S militaries 23rd Special Troops, often referred to as the ‘Ghost Army’ were a troop of sound and radio engineers assigned to fabricate the sounds of marching troops, tanks, landing crafts allowing for sonic deception of their enemies (Goodman, 2009, p. 41). This perhaps was a result of that described in Philip Gerard’s book Secret Soldiers: How a Troupe of American Artists, Designers and Sonic Wizards Won World War II’s Battles of Deception Against the Germans:

“…screaming whine caused by a siren deliberately designed into the aircraft…it instilled a paralysing panic in those on the ground…For Division 17 of the National Research Defence Committee, the lesson was clear: sound could terrify soldiers…So they decided to take the concept to the next level and develop a sonic ‘bomb’…The idea of a sonic ‘bomb’ never quite panned out, so the engineers shifted their work toward battlefield deception.” (Gerard, 2002)

It is these tactics and technologies used within the early years of the military’s application of sound that allow for a greater insight into their usages. We also see many deployments of sonic frequencies, used in order to impact subjects negatively in varied military approaches such as interrogation, crowd control and creating fear against enemies. (BBC, 2003) cites the U.S’s PsyOps use of heavy metal and children’s music as a means of interrogation during warfare. Sergeant Mark Hadsell of PsyOps states “If you play it for 24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide, your train of thought slows down and your will is broken. That’s when we come in and talk to them.” (BBC, 2003). However, though it is well documented that music and sound has been used within interrogation scenarios, this perhaps does not allow us to have an understanding of how sound effects our brain, as one can associate it’s effect as more physiological, due to sensory depravation caused, as a pose to psychological change. Psychological change, can infect be seen within the second Indochina war, similar to operations such as the Urban Funk Campaign discussed in section 3.1. Known as the “Wandering Soul” PsyOps units within the war attempted to exploit emotional contagion, evaluative conditioning and visual imagery of the enemy. John Pilger describes this within his book Heroes when discussing a PsyOps Officer in Vietnam:

“His favourite tape was called “Wandering Soul,” and as we lifted out of Snuffy he explained, “what we’re doing today is psyching out the enemy. And that’s where Wandering Soul comes in. Now you’ve got to understand the Vietnamese way of life to realise the power behind Wandering Soul. You see, the Vietnamese people worship their ancestors and they take a lot of notice of the spirits and stuff like that. Well, what we’re going to do here is broadcast the voices of the ancestors — you know, ghosts which we’ve simulated in our studios. These ghosts, these ancestors, are going to tell the Vietcong to stop messing with the people’s right to live freely, or the people are going to disown them.” The helicopter dropped to within twenty feet of the trees. The PsyOps captain threw a switch and a voice reverberated from two loudspeakers attached to the machine- gun mounting. While the voice hissed and hooted, a sergeant hurled out handfuls of leaflets which made the same threats in writing.” (Pilger, 1986).

These techniques have allowed for a greater amount of research in the 21st century, and as a common theme, this is particularly within the U.S military. In February 2004, the American Technology Corporation secured a $1 million contract to provide U.S forces in Iraq with Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) (Goodman, 2009, p. 21). The LRAD focuses a directional 15° to 30° beam of sound between 1kHz and 5kHz reaching a distance of around 5,500 meters (LRAD , 2015). The use of the LRAD has been seen as a means of crowd control and has been identified in scenarios such as repelling pirates in Somalia and suicide bombers in the middle east (Goodman, 2009). It is the LRAD’s highly directional and high decibel sound that perhaps allows us to see the effect of the Brain Stem Reflex discussed in section 3.1. The impact of such a high decibel frequency could perhaps be believed to instil a natural instinctive flight mechanism in the brain; it is also document that the effect of the LRAD can cause nausea or dizziness, Amy Teibel writes, when discussing the Israeli use of a similar LRAD device

“A young Palestinian covers his ears from a sound, launched by a new weapon of the Israeli army, during a demonstration against the construction of Israel’s separation barrier at the West Bank village of Bil’in Friday, June 3, 2005. Israel is considering using an unusual new weapon against Jewish settlers who resist this summer’s Gaza Strip evacuation, a device that emits penetrating bursts of sound that send targets reeling with dizziness and nausea.” (Teibel, 2005).

However, when discussing the LRAD device we must also consider it’s use of ultrasound, as this device also applies ultrasound within it’s mechanism — this will be discussed in section 4.3.1. It is clear to see that the effect of sonic weapons used in order to impact the human body physiologically and alter the subjects mental state, is of large importance when researching acoustic warfare weapons.

Brainwave Entrainment

The effect of sound on our brain often leads back to a common theme of resonance. Brainwave entrainment (or often referred to as neural entrainment) defines itself as the use of certain frequencies to activate bands of electrical wave resonance within our brain, to induce neurological states within our body. The preliminary proof of concept and main body of contextual research in this field stems from German professor of Physics, Heinrich Wilhelm Dove, who made discoveries in brainwave entrainment (BWE) through infrasonic frequencies entitled “Binaural beats” in 1841 (Kliempt, Ruta, Ogston, Landeck, & Martay, 1999). This method of entrainment occurs when two coherent frequencies within our audible range, are made present in both the left and right ear. Each frequency enters the auditory canal of the ear through to the cochlea; in turn the basilar membrane resonates at the frequency heard, this passes to the brain allowing us to recognise the frequency (Cook, 1999). The effect of this allows the brain to detect the phase difference between the two frequencies, rather than the brain responding to each frequency, the effect comprises of the difference between the two. This instils the ‘third’ frequency to resonate at an infrasonic range below 20–30Hz. The stimulus frequency reverberated by this induces a specific cerebral wave corresponding to characterised states of mind. (Caterina Filimon, n.d). Goodman states “…resonating with alpha and theta rhythms in the brain known to produce moods of fear, anxiety or anger” (Goodman, 2009, p. 18).

This technique has been applied to many non-warfare scenarios, which allows us to understand the importance of it’s application. Many musicians and directors have found ways of utilising neural entrainment to initiate fear into the listeners. Movie Director Gaspar Noe and musician Thomas Bangalter, used two differing bandwidths to instil beta wave frequency to the audience in order to create a feeling of tension in particular scenes of the movie Irreversible (Stathatos, no date).

Articles posted in The Times & New Scientist in 1973 document the use of a device called a ‘Squawk Box’ (New Scientist, 1973), used by the British Military in Northern Ireland. The device, mounted on a vehicle, emitted two frequencies of marginal difference in order to resonate a particular frequency bandwidth, similar to the effect discussed previously (Spannered, 2009). The article in New Scientist reports that the audio produced psychoacoustic effects giddiness, nausea, fainting, or merely a “spooky” psychological effect to targets. It also goes on to say that “Most people are intensely annoyed by the device and have a compelling wish to be somewhere else.” (New Scientist, 1973). Though the exact frequency range that was created is discussed in many aspects of military application, it’s important to draw from research to discover which areas of brainwave entrainment may perhaps effect the human body negatively.

Contrary to that described previously, the use of binaural beats has been actively discussed as a means of stress relief for participants, with research such as that collated by (Huang & Charyton, 2008) citing “People suffering from cognitive functioning deficits, stress, pain, headache/migraines, PMS, and behavioural problems benefited from BWE. However, more controlled trials are needed to test additional protocols with outcomes.” It is in review of physiological effects of brainwave entrainment we see in many pieces of research and literature such as that by, (Wahbeh, Calabrese, & Zwickey, 2007) & (Huang & Charyton, 2008), that confirm increased Serotonin levels within the body due to brainwave entrainment. With research such as (Mercola, 2015), discussing the role of increased Serotonin levels positively effecting the feeling of anxiety, that perhaps one may see the benefits of BWE. However, it is in fact discussed by (L. Fannin, Ph.D, no date) that the effect of BWE on frequency ranges that are already heightened within our brain is what causes a negative effect. Jeffrey L. Fannin, Ph.D, discusses:

“Anxiety — Too much beta activity may cause you to feel afraid or have thoughts of fear towards things that you are usually calm. I would imagine that if your brainwaves get high enough in the beta range, you will begin to notice a fear of things that are not normal to freak out over.

Stress — Though there are many good things that come with beta waves, there is also a huge possibility that they may stress you out. They are linked to increased stress, which is why it is important to learn how to shift your brainwaves when needed.

Paranoia — Paranoid schizophrenics are actually able to generate much more high beta (25–30Hz) activity than the average population. Are beta brainwaves the cause of schizophrenia? No, they are a side-effect and schizophrenia is a much more complex disease. Increasing beta brainwaves will not increase the likelihood of you becoming crazy, but they could make you feel more paranoid than usual.”

Ultrasonic frequencies

The spectrum beyond human audible range defines itself as ultrasound, this being above 20,000Hz. Ultrasound maintains very directional wave forms, due to their smaller wavelength and is very easily absorbed by materials, which allows for a greater application of use than other frequency bandwidths (Carovac, Smajlovic, & Junuzovic, 2011). Due to this, we can see ultrasound utilised in largely in the medical industry, with a particular focus on digital diagnostic imaging. Diagnostic imaging of ultrasound scanners operate around 2 to 18 megahertz, being hundreds of times greater than human perception (Carovac, Smajlovic, & Junuzovic, 2011). The mechanisms for this process depends on the echo time or Doppler shift, of the reflected ultrasonic sound on the internal organs or soft tissue, thus resulting in a 2d or 3d image (Georgia State University, no date). Ultrasonic sound is often produced using either piezoelectric or magnetostrictive transistors, by applying the output of an electronic oscillation within the device (Georgia State University, no date). The preliminary applications of ultrasound can be seen as a means of radar detection, similar to that of infrasound discussed in section 3.1, with the employment of submarine detectors in World War 1 (Carovac, Smajlovic, & Junuzovic, 2011). This depended on similar technologies of that used today in the medical industry, however since then, we have seen research within ultrasonic frequencies rise in many differing fields. Though it is apparent that the use of ultrasound has not been as widely investigated as both the infrasonic and sonic frequency fields, we can still see a common interest in it’s application for military use.


Hypersonic Ultrasound

‘Hypersonic sound’ can be referred to simply as the focusing of ultrasound. Similar to that of light being focused into a laser, hypersonic sound works under a similar principle, with a speaker being focused into a highly directional focused beam of sound. The effect of this involves a speaker which emits low level ultrasound at around 100,000 vibrations per second, resulting in the audio creating the sound in the air as it travels, as a pose to regular speakers which make the sound waves on the face of the speaker (Norris, 2004). However, as previously mentioned in section 3.2.2, hypersonic sound used in devices like the LRAD do in fact utilise audible frequencies too and it is important to understand the cohesion within it’s application.

The military usage of hypersonic ultrasound is perhaps a technical advancement of the acoustic deception techniques used in World War II by the ‘Ghost Army’ and that of the Urban Funk Campaign in Vietnam both discussed in section 3.2.2. However, what these to techniques did not allow for was the development ultrasound, resulting in the audio being highly directional. Woody Norris, who would later found the LRAD Corporation, discussed the military application of ultrasound on a hypersonic sound lecture in 2004. Stating that the device had been deployed by the U.S military for use within Iraq, in order to deceive the enemy by creating the sound ‘fake’ troops. Moreover, he also discussed the use of the device that altered temperature of enemies whilst also stating:

“We make a version with this which puts out 155 decibels. Pain is 120. So it allows you to go nearly a mile away and communicate with people, and there can be a public beach just off to the side, and they don’t even know it’s turned on. We sell those to the military presently for about 70,000 dollars, and they’re buying them as fast as we can make them.” (Norris, 2004).

This in fact, gives us a great insight into the development of techniques used within prior wars and the advancement that has been made with technology of those discussed in previous sections. We can also see from this that the application of ultrasound has in fact been popular by the military and one could assume that there may be more progressed development within this field. Moreover, (Goodman, 2009) cites “There is, however, evidence to suggest that ultrasound has been considered by military and law enforcement authorities as a likely technology for so-called ‘non-lethal weapons’ for use in crowd control and ‘coercive interrogation’.” which is evident to this day. We can also see the application of hypersonic ultrasound as a means of public crowd control with the likes of The Mosquito Anti-Social Device (M.A.D), which emits high frequency sound, around 20,000hz and above, with a range of around 15 to 20 meters (Goodman, 2009). On the Compound Security System’s website, who are the company behind the M.A.D, they specify that the sine wave frequency played by the device, at 20kHz, can only be heard by those under 25 years of age (Compound Security, 2015). Thus, this system is targeted as a youth deterrent. The company goes on to state that field trials suggest that teenagers where acutely aware for the ultrasonic tone and would usually wish to move away after around ten minutes (Compound Security, 2015). This suggest that perhaps the device’s intended use is to create auditory discomfort for the target audience, in order for them to move away from a specific area. Moreover, devices similar to this have also been developed previously; though military and law enforcement have denied the use of ultrasonic devices it apparent that such exist. Instructions and a Patent for a ‘Phasor Pain Field Generator’ can be found, which emits ultrasonic frequencies at 20,000Hz to 25,000Hz as a schematic for a handheld self-defence device, specifying that it’s “intended for Law Enforcement, Personal Or For Qualified Acoustical Research” (Free Information Society, no date) & (De Laro Research, 2014). Within the description of this device, it also states “if at any time head or neck feels swollen or you feel light headed or sick to your stomach, it is an indication that you are being affected. Sometimes you may experience a continuous ringing in the ears even after the device is turned off” (Free Information Society, no date). One can draw a conclusion from the description of both the M.A.D and the ‘Phasor Pain Field Generator’ that the intended outcome if the the target to feel discomfort. It is not unreasonable to state that as technology has progressed within ultrasonic research and as more psychological effects of inaudible sounds are discovered, the perceptual military operations of sonic warfare have widened. These techniques of applying 20,000Hz as a means of deterrent of said ‘self-defence’ devices allow for more primary research within this field to be explored. As a result, this study will collect primary research within this area to allow for a greater insight into the application of these techniques.


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(This article is part of the paper ‘The psychoacoustic effect of infrasonic, sonic and ultrasonic frequencies within non-lethal military warfare techniques’ by Ryan Littlefield, copywrite of The University of Portsmouth)

Photoacoustic communication Technology Uses Lasers to Transmit Audible Messages to Specific People

 Technology Uses Lasers to Transmit Audible Messages to Specific People

Photoacoustic communication approach could send warning messages through the air without requiring a receiving device

WASHINGTON — Researchers have demonstrated that a laser can transmit an audible message to a person without any type of receiver equipment. The ability to send highly targeted audio signals over the air could be used to communicate across noisy rooms or warn individuals of a dangerous situation such as an active shooter.

MIT Used a Laser to Transmit Audio Directly Into a Person’s Ear

Caption: Ryan M. Sullenberger and Charles M. Wynn developed a way to use eye- and skin-safe laser light to transmit a highly targeted audible message to a person without any type of receiver equipment.

 Image Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory

In The Optical Society (OSA) journal Optics Letters, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory report using two different laser-based methods to transmit various tones, music and recorded speech at a conversational volume.

“Our system can be used from some distance away to beam information directly to someone’s ear,” said research team leader Charles M. Wynn. “It is the first system that uses lasers that are fully safe for the eyes and skin to localize an audible signal to a particular person in any setting.”

Creating sound from air

The new approaches are based on the photoacoustic effect, which occurs when a material forms sound waves after absorbing light. In this case, the researchers used water vapor in the air to absorb light and create sound.

“This can work even in relatively dry conditions because there is almost always a little water in the air, especially around people,” said Wynn. “We found that we don’t need a lot of water if we use a laser wavelength that is very strongly absorbed by water. This was key because the stronger absorption leads to more sound.”

One of the new sound transmission methods grew from a technique called dynamic photoacoustic spectroscopy (DPAS), which the researchers previously developed for chemical detection. In the earlier work, they discovered that scanning, or sweeping, a laser beam at the speed of sound could improve chemical detection.

“The speed of sound is a very special speed at which to work,” said Ryan M. Sullenberger, first author of the paper. “In this new paper, we show that sweeping a laser beam at the speed of sound at a wavelength absorbed by water can be used as an efficient way to create sound.”

Image result for hearing through laser
Caption: The researchers use water vapor in the air to absorb light and create sound. By sweeping the laser they can create an audio signal that can only be heard at a certain distance from the transmitter, allowing it to be localized to one person.

Image Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory

For the DPAS-related approach, the researchers change the length of the laser sweeps to encode different frequencies, or audible pitches, in the light. One unique aspect of this laser sweeping technique is that the signal can only be heard at a certain distance from the transmitter. This means that a message could be sent to an individual, rather than everyone who crosses the beam of light. It also opens the possibility of targeting a message to multiple individuals.

Laboratory tests

In the lab, the researchers showed that commercially available equipment could transmit sound to a person more than 2.5 meters away at 60 decibels using the laser sweeping technique. They believe that the system could be easily scaled up to longer distances. They also tested a traditional photoacoustic method that doesn’t require sweeping the laser and encodes the audio message by modulating the power of the laser beam.

“There are tradeoffs between the two techniques,” said Sullenberger. “The traditional photoacoustics method provides sound with higher fidelity, whereas the laser sweeping provides sound with louder audio.”

Next, the researchers plan to demonstrate the methods outdoors at longer ranges. “We hope that this will eventually become a commercial technology,” said Sullenberger. “There are a lot of exciting possibilities, and we want to develop the communication technology in ways that are useful.”

Paper: R. M. Sullenberger, S. Kaushik, C. M. Wynn. “Photoacoustic communications: delivering audible signals via absorption of light by atmospheric H2O,” Opt. Lett., 44, 3, 622-625 (2019).

About Optics Letters
Optics Letters offers rapid dissemination of new results in all areas of optics with short, original, peer-reviewed communications. Optics Letters covers the latest research in optical science, including optical measurements, optical components and devices, atmospheric optics, biomedical optics, Fourier optics, integrated optics, optical processing, optoelectronics, lasers, nonlinear optics, optical storage and holography, optical coherence, polarization, quantum electronics, ultrafast optical phenomena, photonic crystals and fiber optics.

About The Optical Society

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Original article:

Remote Control of the Brain and Human Nervous System

Remote Control of the Brain and Human Nervous System

The USA and the European Union invest since the beginning of the millenium billions of dollars and euros into brain research. As a result of this research perfect maps of the brain were developed, including the areas of the brain that control the activity of different body organs or parts where higher brain activities, such as speech and thoughts, are taking place. The brain activities corresponding to different actions in those areas were also deciphered.

Thanks to the knowledge of specific locations of different centers in the brain and frequencies of the neuronal activity in them, teams of physicians are now capable of helping many people who were in the past, for different reasons, unable to participate in a normal life. There exist prostheses, which are controlled directly from the brain centers that normally control the movement of the limbs (see this) and enable people, who lost them, to use the prosthesis in a way similar to the way normal people use their limbs. Higher brain activities were produced as well. In 2006 scientists placed into the brain of a completely paralyzed man an implant, which transferred the activity of his brain into different devices and enabled him to open his e-mail, control his TV set and control his robotic arm. Other paralyzed people were able to search the Internet, play computer games and drive their electrical wheelchairs (see this).

Thanks to extensive brain research, computers were taught to understand the neuronal activity so much so that they are now capable of using the activity of our brain to reproduce our perceptions. Canadian scientists demonstrated an experiment, where the computer could interpret the electroencephalographical recordings from the brain to produce the painting of a face that the subject of experiment was perceiving (see this).

In the opposite way the data, processed by the computer in the way that will make them intelligible for the nervous system, can be transmitted into the brain and produce there a new reality. When an implant is placed in the brain and connected to a camera, placed on spectacles, for people whose photoreceptors in their retina stopped working, the sight is at least partially restored. In this case the camera on the spectacles is transmitting into the implant light frequencies and the implant re-transmits them in frequencies which “understand” the neurons processing the visual perceptions (see this).

In California scientists developed a device, which can register the brain waves and, using analysis, find among them consonants and vowels and in this way transform our thoughts to words. A paralyzed man could use this device to write without using a keyboard. Presently the accuracy of the device reaches 90%.  Scientists believe that within five years they will manage to develop a smartphone, to which their device could be connected (see this).

Just like in the case of visual perception it is possible, when knowing the algorithms of brain processing of words, to generate algorithms of different words in the computer and transmit them into the brain in ultrasound frequencies and in this way produce in the human brain particular “thoughts”.

Everybody will easily fall victim to the proposal that, instead of typing or searching with the use of mouse, his computer or cell phone could react directly to his brain’s activity and take down his thoughts directly to the documents or carry out operations that has just occurred to him.

As a matter of fact Apple and Samsung companies have already developed prototypes of necessary electroencephalographical equipment, which can be placed on top of a head and transmit electromagnetic waves produced by the brain into the prototypes of new smart phones. The smart phones should analyze those waves, find out what are the intentions of their owners and carry them out. Apple and Samsung companies expect that the direct connection with brains will gradually replace computer keyboards, touch screens, mouse and voice orders (see this). When the system is complete, it will be feasible for hackers, government agencies and foreign government’s agencies to implant thoughts and emotions in people’s minds and “hearts“, when they will be connected to internet or cell phone systems.

In 2013 scientists in the USA could infer from the brain activity the political views of people and distinguish democrats from republicans and in 2016 scientists used transcranial magnetic stimulation to make subjects of experiment more positive towards criticism to their country, than the participants whose brains were unaffected (see this).

Last year historian Juval Noah Harari was invited to deliver a speech at the World economic Forum in Davos. The editor of the British daily Financial Times stressed, when introducing him, that it is not usual to invite a historian to speak to most important world economists and politicians. Juval Noah Harari warned in his speech against the rise of new totality, based on the access to human brain. He said:

“Once we have algorithms that can understand you better than you understand yourself, they could predict my desires, manipulate my feelings and even make decisions on my behalf. And if we are not careful the outcome can be the rise of digital dictatorships. In the 21st century we may be enslaved under digital dictatorships”

In a similar way the Stanford University researcher in neurology and Dolby Labs’ chief scientist Poppy Crum warned at the conference in Las Vegas:

“Your devices will know more about you than you will. I believe we need to think about how [this data] could be used“.

In April 2017 neuroethicist at the University of Basel Marcello Ienca and Roberto Andorno, a human rights lawyer at the University of Zurich, writing in the journal Life Sciences, Society and Policy, published the article “Toward new human rights in the age of neuroscience and neurotechnology“ where they called for the creation of legislation which would protect human right to freedom and other human rights from the abuse of technologies opening access to the human brain. In the article they wrote that “the mind is a kind of last refuge of personal freedom and self-determination” and “at present, no specific legal or technical safeguard protects brain data from being subject to the same data-mining and privacy intruding measures as other types of information“. Among the world media only the British newspaper The Guardian wrote about their proposal (see this). This fact suggests that in the actual democratic world there exists no political will to forbid remote control of human thoughts and feelings, no matter that such perspective breaks elementary principles of democracy.

In 2016 and 2017 10 European organizations tried to convince the European Parliament and the European Commission to enact the legislation that would ban the remote control of activity of the human nervous system, since pulsed microwaves could be used to manipulate the human nervous system at a distance at present time already (see this). Then in 2017, 19 world organizations addressed the G20 meeting with the same proposal. They received no positive response to their effort.

To achieve the ban of the use of remote mind control technologies it is necessary to work out an international agreement. In the past century the USA and Russia built systems (HAARP and Sura), capable to produce, by manipulation of the ionosphere, extra long electromagnetic waves in frequencies corresponding to frequencies of the activity of the human nervous system and in this way to control the brain activity of populations of vast areas of this planet (See this, “Psychoelectronic Threat to Democracy“). At the beginning of this year China announced the building of a similar, more advanced, system. The Chinese daily The South China Morning Post admitted in its article that the system could be used to control the activity of the human nervous system.

The politicians should, instead of classifying those weapons of mass destruction, make effort to create more democratic system of international politics to replace the current system of struggle for military power. Only in this way conditions could be provided for the ban of use of   If this does not happen, in a few years there will be no chance to preserve democracy.

By Mojmir Babacek

Mojmir Babacek is the founder of the International Movement for the Ban of the Manipulation of the Human Nervous System by Technical Means,  He is the author of numerous articles on the issue of mind manipulation. 

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