Dual Use Oversight Needed for Human Augmentation Technology

Research into human augmentation technologies, which includes a range of interventions designed to enhance human capabilities, is advancing without sufficient consideration of ethical consequences, warns Drone Wars UK. These technologies, which encompass various medical and military applications such as exoskeletons, robotic prosthesis, bionic eye implants, brain-computer interfaces, neurochemical enhancement drugs, and thought-controlled weapon systems, have the potential for both positive medical use and lethal military use. The increasing focus and resources devoted to these technologies by military bodies, including the UK Ministry of Defence, necessitates a broader discussion, scrutiny, and regulation, according to Drone Wars. The organization emphasizes the need to anticipate and address potential scenarios created by the rapid development of these technologies that current legal frameworks are ill-equipped to handle. Notably, the dual-use nature of human augmentation poses additional complexities as military applications interfere with issues of control and regulation, similar to concerns surrounding autonomous weapon systems. Drone Wars urges a shift in focus towards controlling the development and deployment of human enhancement and cyborg technologies to prevent potential misuse. In addition to military deployment, the report’s author highlights the possibility of these technologies being used by domestic policing or security agencies for surveillance and control purposes. The report also emphasizes the ethical challenges posed by human-computer integration and questions related to human agency when individuals become part of the weapon system. The UK Ministry of Defence’s Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre has collaborated with the German Bundeswehr Office for Defence Planning to produce a report on human augmentation, acknowledging four core technologies that will play a crucial role in the future: genetic engineering, bioinformatics, brain interfaces, and pharmaceuticals. The report states that ethical considerations may be secondary to other concerns such as national security. It argues that national interest may dictate the necessity of human augmentation, and governments should develop clear policies to maximize the benefits while protecting values. However, the report also acknowledges the need for international dialogue and regulation for these technologies. Commenting on the dual-use nature of human augmentation, a researcher specializing in brain-computer interface unmanned aerial vehicle technology highlighted the lack of awareness within the academic community regarding potential military applications of their research. He suggests the scientific community must engage in earnest conversations about the ethical implications of conducting research that may be weaponized. Drone Wars proposes the regulation and monitoring of specific human augmentation use cases, particularly neurotechnology, due to its potential risk. It also recommends establishing a research monitoring network to act as an early warning system for the creation of neuroweapons.

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