Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Solana's Institute for Stratetic Studies (ISS) with some news!

Advances in neuroscience: new weapons, new questions

© US Department of Defense
Personnel from the US Air Force's 379th Expeditionary Medical Group prepare a patient for a CT scan of their brain.
"Advances in neuroscience, including brain imaging, psychopharmacology and neural interface technologies, promise to transform medicine, education, criminal justice and other fields. Militaries are among those interested in its potential: they have long sought ways to enhance the performance of troops on the battlefield, as well as to improve selection and training of personnel, and the medical treatment of trauma victims. However, concerns over political and ethical issues, and the scope for dual use and abuse, are increasingly coming to the fore, just as they have done in other scientific fields.

It is the potential for weaponisation that generates the most concern: so-called 'non-lethal' weapons such as incapacitating chemical agents are already being deployed in both military and law-enforcement contexts, and other potential weapons applications arising from neuroscience are on the horizon. There is, moreover, a potential for proliferation and use by non-state actors. With the deadline for destruction of chemical-weapon stocks under the 1993 
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) set for the end of April 2012, however, there is an opportunity for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to shift focus towards such novel threats.

In February 2012, as part of its two-year '
Brain Waves' project investigating developments in neuroscience and their implications for society and public policy, the Royal Society, the UK's national academy of science, published its report on 'Neuroscience, Conflict and Security'. (Earlier reports include a general survey of issues and advances in the field, legal issues, and implications for education and lifelong learning.) The report assesses in detail the potential military uses of neuroscience and explores many of the concerns. It reviews the current legal, policy and ethical frameworks governing such applications, and offers specific policy recommendations, in particular taking the opportunity to transition the focus of the OPCW in the run-up to the Third CWC Review Conference in 2013.Potential applicationsThe Royal Society report surveys the current state of interest and research on the part of various militaries, and assesses the potential for novel applications to enhance or degrade the capabilities and performance of soldiers and other security personnel.

In the area of performance enhancement, the report identifies a range of potential new tools for screening and selecting military personnel, including using neuroimaging to better identify fast learners or individuals with particular decision-making abilities and styles, and using electroencephalography (EEG) – the monitoring and recording of the brain's electrical activity, or 'brain waves', externally via the scalp – to identify people with particular skills or promise, such as marksmanship. Possible training applications include: brain-stimulation techniques – such as passing weak electrical currents through particular parts of the brain using electrodes attached to the skull (transcranial direct current stimulation) – to enhance the ability to perceive and identify targets; using EEG feedback to speed up learning; and using drugs to enhance learning.

Drugs might also be developed to enhance alertness, attention and working memory; amphetamines, caffeine and nicotine have been used officially or informally for such purposes for many years, and other prescription drugs such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) and modafinil have been studied in this context. Other drugs could be used or developed to reduce anxiety and enhance decision-making, or to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. EEG can be used to enhance target detection by flagging unconscious perceptions, and to detect fatigue and stress.

The flip side of using brain-imaging techniques to enhance performance by identifying mental states is the parallel ability to identify mental states and intentions in an adversary. This could lead to new and better profiling techniques, non-coercive interrogation methods and lie detection. The traditional polygraph lie detector, despite long-standing and widespread use in law enforcement and criminal justice, is 
scientifically dubious. Several commercial companies are now developing products using direct brain imaging, with claims of up to 99% accuracy, but results derived from this technology have been deemed inadmissible in court and such applications are unlikely to be considered reliable for many years, if ever.

The overall impact of neuroscientific advances should, then, be kept in perspective. Although the applications mentioned above suggest that progress is approaching a critical mass and the world is on the threshold of a revolution in neuroscience, that threshold has not yet been crossed. Most potential applications are still either speculative or based on limited laboratory research; few have reached the level of practical technologies or clinical or field trials. Moreover, many psychoactive drugs, including many of those already developed, have negative side effects that limit their use.

Although the Royal Society report, and the review articles and studies it draws on, are based on open-source material, there is nothing to suggest that classified research, if it exists, has taken any of the applications significantly further. Looking forward, for the most part, experts consider that the neuroscience revolution is unlikely to have the same sort of transformational effect on society (or military affairs) as advances in microelectronics and communications have had over the last 40 years.

However, two areas stand out as being further advanced towards practical application and, as a result, as having greater potential impact and posing more immediate policy challenges. These are, broadly, the development of 'non-lethal' weapons (especially incapacitating chemical agents), and brain–computer interfaces.
Brain–computer interfacesNeural interface systems that involve direct electrical stimulation of specified parts of the nervous system are already in widespread clinical use to enhance hearing or vision, relieve pain, stimulate motor function and alleviate cognitive disability due to injury, stroke or disease. More innovative are techniques that read and interpret the brain's activity to determine intentions, and then translate those intentions to control an external device, such as an artificial limb. Simple external EEG recorders based on novel sensor technology and software are already being incorporated into commercial products that allow users to manipulate objects with their thoughts, vastly improving speed and convenience. Such devices are not yet sufficiently reliable or convenient for use in critical contexts, but the consumer product market, in particular the lucrative gaming industry, is likely to drive increasingly rapid development of this technology, as it has for so many others in the area of computing.

A more advanced and sophisticated neural interface system, however, called 
BrainGate, involves implanting a 96-electrode chip on the surface of the primary motor cortex of the brain, allowing control of an artificial arm, as well as the movement of a cursor on a personal computer screen to make rough drawings and control, through buttons, any devices attached to the computer. The system has been successfully tested in several patients, and is currently undergoing larger clinical trials, due for completion in 2015.

Such intrusive systems that record brain activity directly are both more sensitive and much faster than EEG-based systems. Permitting military personnel to control remotely operated vehicles and weapons directly with their brains rather than via a joystick or other controller could thus confer a significant advantage. And since the brain can process images at the sub-conscious level faster than the conscious mind is aware, integration of such technology with weapons and targeting systems could also allow for major improvements in speed and accuracy, although such applications would have serious legal and ethical implications concerning the attribution of responsibility.
Non-lethal weaponsAlthough advances in neuropharmacology are allowing improved treatment of many diseases and conditions, they also have military and security implications. Lethal chemical agents that affect the nervous system – nerve gases – have been around since the 1930s, although first use of any chemical weapon was banned under the 1925 Geneva Protocol, and development and any use was banned under the CWC.

These agents act on the peripheral nervous system by disrupting the mechanism that turns nerve impulses off. In contrast, riot-control agents, such as tear gases and irritants, operate externally on the eyes, skin or mucous membranes, and so-called 'incapacitating chemical agents', for which there is no universally accepted definition, tend to be targeted on the central nervous system, to induce temporary unconsciousness, sedation, disorientation, paralysis and other effects. Riot-control agents tend to have short-lived effects, while the effects of incapacitating chemical agents can persist for hours or days. The CWC bans chemical agents which can cause temporary incapacitation, but includes an exception for 'law enforcement including domestic riot control purposes'. This loophole has permitted some research to proceed even in states that adhere to the convention, and research is also being conducted for defensive purposes. Moreover, the interpretation of 'law enforcement' in this context is disputed, and the lines between law enforcement and counter-terrorism are blurred.

Potential novel agents identified in the Royal Society report include opioids, especially those derived from the synthetic opiate fentanyl; derivatives or analogues of anti-anxiety and anaesthetic drugs (benzodiazepines); agents to inhibit noradrenaline, dissociative anaesthetics, and neurotransmitter analogues and inhibitors. The use by Russian special forces of an agent comprised of two fentanyl derivatives to render a group of Chechen separatists and their hostages unconscious before storming Moscow's Dubrovka Theatre in 2002 illustrates both the potential and the technical, legal and ethical problems involved. Most of the 129 hostages and 39 Chechen attackers who died in the incident were killed by the gas, which was pumped into the ventilation system, while survivors suffered long-term effects.

Finally, just as potential new incapacitating chemical agents represent evolutionary extensions of currently available agents and applications, non-lethal technologies such as the Taser electroshock weapon, already in widespread use for law-enforcement or riot-control purposes, can be developed further. The Royal Society report discusses recent interest in and development of new directed electromagnetic- or acoustic-energy weapons.
Anticipating troubleThe report devotes relatively little attention to neural interface systems, despite their advanced status compared to other potential advances in neuroscience, and despite the headline appeal of 'soldiers controlling weapons with their minds' or 'soldiers fly drones with their thoughts'. More attention is paid to chemical agents and non-lethal weapons, perhaps because there is more immediacy involved, but also because a framework to regulate and control them already exists in the CWC, and because they are, in effect, novel offensive weapons.

For most of the other advances the report discusses, legal and ethical concerns are not particular to the security-sector applications. Neural interface technology has the potential to change the way soldiers operate their weapons and the efficiency with which they do so, but from the point of view of the target it matters little whether an unmanned vehicle is being controlled directly or by means of a joystick. (The principal exception is the concern over granting semi-autonomous control of a weapon to software that interprets subconscious brain patterns.)

Of the ten recommendations (besides three specific to the UK legal and research context) offered by the report's authors, six are addressed to the international community, and four of these involve the status and treatment of incapacitating chemical agents under the CWC and the 
Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). In particular, they suggest that the parties to the CWC should address the definition and status of incapacitating chemical agents at the 2013 Review Conference and in informal intergovernmental consultations. Although these issues have been discussed before, the pace of scientific and technological advances compared to the institutional review process make it urgent that they be addressed during this cycle, the report says. Since some potential incapacitating agents are also covered by the BWC, the OPCW and the Implementation Support Unit of the BWC should improve coordination; the BWC's scientific review process between the December 2011 BWC Review Conference and the next one in 2016 should focus on neuroscience. The first of these is particularly important, since there is a risk that, rather than ensuring greater control, the overlap means some novel agents might be ignored by one regime on the assumption that they would be covered by the other.

Other recommendations are more narrow, including a call for further study by non-governmental organisations, including professional bodies, of the legal and ethical implications of directed-energy weapons, and for governments and NGOs to take steps to ensure that information about the risks of cognitive enhancement drugs is made available to military personnel.

The report's first recommendation, however, addressed to the scientific community, cuts to the heart of the problem: 'there needs to be a fresh effort by the appropriate professional bodies to inculcate the awareness of the dual-use challenge ... among neuroscientists at an early stage of their training.' Few undergraduate degree programmes in the biosciences, at least in the UK, include required courses or modules on ethics, and few scientists are aware of the implications of the CWC or BWC for their work. A concerted effort on the part of the scientific community to encourage a culture of awareness of and responsibility for the consequences of advances in neuroscience, and a similar effort on the part of the security and policymaking communities with regard to the legal and ethical implications of such advances, need to be made well in advance of the development of practical applications.

One current effort in this regard is the Nuffield Council on Bioethics' 
public consultation on novel neurotechnologies, which concluded on 23 April with a report expected later this year. The fact that many of the potential applications are speculative, even far-fetched, does not mean that the issues should not be explored now. Even if few of the 'blue-sky' ideas turn out to be practical, their impact could be profound, and early awareness and consideration is critical." LINK

thanks Manal Fahmy for the story! (LINK)
stay tuned!

bacdk from a 2007 post of mine:
"On 13 November 1989 the ministerial Council of Western European Union (WEU) decided to create an Institute for Security Studies as a subsidiary body of the organisation, with the task of contributing to the development of a European security identity. Since the creation of the ISS-WEU in 1990 until its integration into the EU on 1 January 2002, the Institute and its Team have:
• developed a broad range of activities
• produced more than 80 publications
awarded two main types of fellowships."
link...under "archive"

from the WEU directors worked here:
Nicole Gnesotto,who is French, was the Director of the WEU-Institute from 1 October 1999 until 31 December 2001. An Agrégée de Lettres modernes, she studied at the Ecole Normale Supérieure and was formerly (1994-99) a professor at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Paris (Sciences Po) and chargée de mission to the Director of the Institut français des Relations internationales (IFRI). A specialist in security issues, she was a member of the Institute’s research team from 1990 to 1993, after having been deputy head of the French Foreign Ministry’s Centre d’Analyse et de Prévision (policy planning staff) from 1986 to 1990. She is the author of many publications on strategic issues and European security. As the first Director of the European Union Institute for Security Studies, she remained in post from 1 January 2002 to 30 April 2007. She is currently a Special Advisor to the High Representative, Javier Solana.
John Roper was the first Director of the Institute, from April 1990 to September 1995. A former university lecturer and former member of parliament, prior to becoming Director he held a senior position on the staff of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA).
and Guido Lenzi.

and here we find also EU's Javier Solana with regularly contributions:
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"On the civilian side, Member States have not yet fully addressed how to resource additional police, prosecutors, judges and penitentiary officials for external deployment, when they are usually in short supply at home. If we don't change this, then we have to face up to the fact that supply will notmeet demand, and ambition will be greater than the capability to realise it. Of course political willingness to act and take risks in support of our values is the most important capability of all. However, it is interesting that there is often more willingness when there is more capability

I just wanted to make a final remark: from Cologne, June 1999, no-one could have envisaged the
operational challenges we were asked to face. But we succeeded. As we look to the next seven years, it is likely that we will have to address as much – if not more – uncertainty in the world. We must make sure that we are clear about one thing – our willingness and our capacity to act, and to act successfully.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much.
(this speech was given in January 2007, when the 7 years of ENP started....)
Anyway the ISS is right in line with Solanas imaginations:
"As I begin my tenure as director, it seems appropriate that I should outline my vision for the EUISS and its role in shaping the European Union's foreign and security policy, by broadly recapitulating the ideas set out in the paper submitted at the request of the HR/SG for CFSP, Javier Solana"
"The Institute should cater, furthermore, to the increasing worldwide 'demand for Europe'. The fact that it is seen as an 'international public good' places a heavy responsibility upon the Union, testing its ability to lead the international community in facing the kind of world disorder that is causing such inordinate human suffering from Sudan to Iraq and the Middle East. The EUISS should devote particular attention to European peripheries where crises and turmoil counterpoint the desire to forge a common destiny with Europe. The debate on how to achieve the goals of creating a democratic and prosperous Euro-Mediterranean community set forth inBarcelona in 1995 is back on the agenda. "
"...In short, the EUISS must evolve in line with the spirit of 'unity in action' that led the European Convention to propose the post of EU Foreign Minister, and act (as its mission statement strongly suggests) as the Institute for foreign and security studies of the European Union...."
read the whole fascinating Speech "A European centre of excellence in tune with the world" (he means in tune with Solana) by ISS boss Álvaro de Vasconcelos, EUISS Newsletter Nº 23, July 2007"


Constance Cumbey said...

Excellent information. Thank you!

Constance Cumbey said...

Timely and disturbing. Thanks for posting this!


Anonymous said...

JS is among the elites of Europe calling out the little people of Europe to volunteer. JS has never volunteered for anything probably having received a paycheck at every point along the way.Come on little people volunteer for free.

Here is the article

Let's create a bottom-up Europe

We want to establish a counter model to the Europe of elites and technocrats, and re-establish its political creativity and legitimacy
We, the undersigned, wish to provide a mouthpiece for European civil society. For this reason, we are asking the European commission and national governments, the European parliament and national parliaments to create a Europe of actively employed citizens and to secure the financial and legal requirements for the European Year of Volunteering for Everyone – as a counter-model to the top-down Europe, the Europe of elites and technocrats that has prevailed up to now that considers itself responsible for forging the destiny of the citizenry of Europe – if need be, against its will. For it is this unspoken maxim of European politics that is threatening to destroy the entire European project.

Jacques Delors, Javier Solana, Ulrich Beck, Daniel Cohn-Bendit and others
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 2 May 2012 19.05 EDT

Anonymous said...


Friday May 4,2012
By Macer Hall


He added: “The holder of this new office would be both Europe’s political and administrative leader, giving them far more powers than those given to the US president.


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björn (farmer) said...