The neuroweapons threat

Nearly two years ago, Juliano Pinto, a 29-year-old paraplegic man, kicked off the World Cup in Brazil with the help of a brain-interface machine that allowed his thoughts to control a robotic exoskeleton. Audiences watching Pinto make his gentle kick, aided as he was by helpers and an elaborate rig, could be forgiven for not seeing much danger in the thrilling achievement. Yet like most powerful scientific breakthroughs, neurotechnologies that allow brains to control machines—or machines to read or control brains—inevitably bring with them the threat of weaponization and misuse, a threat that existing UN conventions designed to limit biological and chemical weapons do not yet cover and which ethical discussions of these new technologies tend to give short shrift. (It may seem like science fiction, but according to a…


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