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back to article Ethics profs fret over cyborg brains, mind-controlled missiles

A British ethics group has started a consultation on the morality of messing about in the human brain in ways that could result in thought-controlled weaponry and super-human capabilities. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics wants to get boffins, policy-makers, regulators and anyone working with or hoping to use futuristic …

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Boffin

What's the difference?

Q. What's the moral or ethical difference between me controlling the weapon via my fingers, and bypassing my fingers and controlling it directly from neural impulses.

A. None.

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Anonymous Coward

Err...

Maybe it's a bit more complicated than that? I'm sure that ethics researchers would disagree. I'm reminded of a possible parallel in my career:

Q What's the difference between an 800gig hard disk and an 800gig hard disk?

A (for the uninformed): None

A (for the specialist): Quite a frikkin' lot, actually, that one came from PC world and the other one came from an Enterprise Storage Array.

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Terminator

Re: Err...

But replacing a panicked, sweat-drenched, tired person trying to control a missile with shaking hands (PC World) with a calm, collected, unthreatened remote operator (ESA) strikes me as a good thing ...

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"Ethics researcher"?

Is that what today's philosophers are calling themselves when they want to be taken seriously? That's adorable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Ethics researcher"?

No, they call themselves philosophers, ethics is a specific branch of philosophy. If you think philosophy isn't a serious subject, the problem is your own.

This is not an arts/science divide, it's a critical thinking/non-critical thinking divide. You can be an artist and think you can be an IT guy and clueless.

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Re: What's the difference?

Depends perhaps on the time-sensitivity: a mentally triggered shot in one microsecond compared to a 100 millisecond finger shot which might just be enough time to think better of it. Which is still no difference if one limits the mental speed response to match the finger - but would they? The other side might be less concerned by certainty and so be shooting faster after all.

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Bronze badge

Re: What's the difference?

>Q. What's the moral or ethical difference between me controlling the weapon via my fingers, and bypassing my fingers and controlling it directly from neural impulses.

A: Can't get as much funding to pontificate about finger control.

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Stop

@Whitter

Except that once the brain sends the signal you cannot override it.... You've already sent the signal that said pull the trigger. The only thing that would stop it at that point is to break the connection between brain and trigger finger.

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Devil

Re: What's the difference?

when putting said wires into brain to perform more than just the advertised function.

Perhaps teh wire leads also copy and emulate your brain function and one day an accident happens and you go into a coma and the secretly emulated brain takes over and you just have now become thiurd party to your own body that you can not control and now the AI moves about and performs your duties and you are totally helpless.

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IT Angle

Re: What's the difference?

It would be more of a moral hair splitting way to say shooting a missle this way or that way is less legal risk b those who fire the missle.

So by acting on it with hands you your person is responsible and reduced in rank.

But if some morality comes into play then firing misslw with your mind then could be used as a deceptive legal tool of some sort. Privae Bob why did you pull that trigger! You are reduced in rank!

Private joe why didn't you shoot that rocket! I had moral objections sir in my mind.

So the end result they want to brain wash you more totally in your mind.

This is pure micro management. By removing morality those commanders have more to gain.

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Stop

"who takes ultimate responsibility for the actions"

There's a man-in-the-loop. So the man.

Panic over.

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Precedents already set.

History (albeit fictional) is littered with evidence on why we cannot allow free reign on brain/machine interfaces. If we were to give unlimited access to this technology, mad professors, evil genii and all manner of ne'er-do-wells will be producing the likes of Daleks, Kane-from-robocop2 and other killbots, set to wreak withering destruction on unsuspecting fleshy meatbags.

Remember that the robotic 3 laws are only in fiction, we need some kind of real world law to apply to this type of development, as I do not want to end up on the end of a missile fired by a grunt with a mind probe just because I cut him up at the lights one day.

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Silver badge

Re: Precedents already set.

The three laws are a hell of a lot closer to the future reality than Daleks. If you take fiction as your evidence then you might just as well assume that every alien civilization in the universe wants to wipe out humanity or that the internet will lead to the enslavement of the entire world by a single evil genus. Kane and the Daleks are both the result of the need for villians in fiction, not evidence that mankind can't be trusted with cybernetic technology. Fiction is a terrible place to look for what humanity will do with a given tech.

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What an idiot.

Yes, I know that's a rude word. Given what you're dribbling down your bib here, it's also rather kinder than you deserve, but I'd like this comment to have some chance of surviving moderation.

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Re: Re: Precedents already set.

I think you will find that fiction can never quite imagine just how horribly the human race can act. If there is a possible use for a technology, someone will find a way to make it work for their own ends. Had we not had non-proliferation of nuclear weaponry, I believe Oppenheimer would have been correct when he proposed that he had become "the destroyer of worlds". I see your interpretation as hopelessly optimistic, in the most rose-tinted of ways.

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FAIL

Re: What an idiot.

Me? or have you been taken in by my tongue-in-cheek prediction of how rubbish BBC effects can be turned into maniacal zombie dustbin murderbots by crazed volcano dwelling fiends?

And for the record, Apple have already patented it, so it will only work in a walled garden anyway!

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Re: Precedents already set.

Possibly the bigger problem is the ethics of fitting cars with missiles, not the way the missiles are launched...?

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Stop

Low tech

Tasering your brain and injecting stem cells seems like incredibly low tech solutions solutions. Kind of akin to smacking a computer with a spanner and hoping that fixes the problem.

Let's not worry just yet.

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Go

"hoping that fixes the problem"

It certainly used to. Computers have got a little more reliable nowadays.

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Silver badge

Re: Low tech

We had a computer back in the late 80s/early 90s that wouldn't boot till you hit it. We used a big screwdriver though, not a spanner. A spanner would have been overkill.

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Anonymous Coward

Have you watched Stealth?

Yeah, do you trust a robot not to drop a nuke on its own base?

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Silver badge
Joke

Re: Have you watched Stealth?

They should have known that jet was evil. After all, he pirated the music. All of it.

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Silver badge

Two minds

On the one hand, being able to ditch the current HID technology and control a computer just by thinking would be pretty cool. On the other hand, I don't know if I'd be willing to put a cybernetic implant into my head to make it happen.

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MJI
Silver badge

Direct brain control - could be risky

Has to be some form of layer to prevent accidental launches ect.

Press a button - takes concious effort.

Launch a missle by brain - just think about it.

Like the old "Do not think about carrots"

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Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: Direct brain control - could be risky

Great.... Now carrots are all I can think about!

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MJI
Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: Re: Direct brain control - could be risky

Better than thinking about firing that missle.

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Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: Re: Re: Direct brain control - could be risky

Damnit, there goes Amsterdam.

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Alien

Krell

Boosting ones IQ is not for the feint hearted, at least it wasn't back in 56.

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'Feint hearted'

Well, they do say fortune favors the bold.

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Re: 'Feint hearted'

And we should worship at that font of knowledge, sans getting cursive about it.

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Happy

please tell me ...

... you meant to type "fortuna favors the bold"

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Bronze badge
Pint

The only way is Ethics

Mind controlled weapons - will that somehow preclude the scenario when you think for a moment - I'll just look down the barrel then!

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Silver badge
Boffin

So what if some mad scientist does invent a killbot?

We can always solve the problem by building more killbots to kill the killbots.

Problem solved!

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Anonymous Coward

Interesting

Just looked at the Board. A few of them look like biologists which is nearly a science, but half of them did vague subjects, like Geography, Sociology, Politics etc.

Surely we should send a few physicists down there to IQ test them all, before we let them have anything to do with telling other people their business.

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Silver badge

Re: Interesting

No, no! Not that! Never that!

It's best to let them stay in the basement arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin and patting their heads on the rare occasion they come up to tell you about their deliberations. If you send down somebody who actually KNOWS something about the real world... Well, let's just say it's best this way and leave it at that.

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Meh

*Huntington's

Just Sayin.

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Unhappy

Wasn't the old phrase for these technologies "Shock Treatment"?

I was taken by the cheerful description of the procedures along with the new euphemisms. So now the process is called Deep Brain Stimulation when used in the classic manner, and repetitive Transcranial magnetic stimulation in the kinder, gentler form. By limiting the administration to the right side of the brain, "patients" no longer exhibit speech anomalies - only the seat of our dreams is affected. And new and improved drugs that prevent us from remembering means we feel no discomfort. Excuse me if I still do not see a lot of difference between the modern practice and the technique developed by Cerletti when he observed pigs being electrocuted and apparently decided he would really like to try that out on people. It all sounds very Frankenstein to me. It is quite cost effective however.

http://www.electroboy.com/electroshocktherapy.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midazolam

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Silver badge
Devil

Think of all the possibilities!

Small devices implanted in the aftermath of the office holiday party (and it's "alcohol-free" punch) would remove the need for a hand-operated cattleprod almost entirely!

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How hard can it be?

I look forward to the Top Gear episode with the electrode implants and brain controlled cars.

Ethically, lets give it a go and see what happens!

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