In case you hadn’t heard, the UN Human Rights Council is set to investigate the use of drones in targeted killings by the US, Israeli and UK governments . Wired has a nice profile of the head of the inquiry Ben Emmerson, who is the U.N.’s special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism. Emmerson’s statements reflect an acceptance of drone warfare as a modern reality but shows a determination to understand the risks involved in the use of drones and their long-term consequences for civilian causalities and human rights abuses.
A new report, released by The Greenwall Foundation looks at the risk, ethics and policy issues arising out of “military human enhancements” — including drugs, special nutrition, electroshock, gene therapy and robotic implants and prostheses. The report looks at the potential harms to soldiers themselves, as well as the potential diplomatic fall out of use of such technology – including the violation of international treaties on ‘biological weapons’. (via War Is Boring)
A couple of pieces on so-called “mutant” or biologically enhanced soldiers which may be of interest:
In The Atlantic, Patrick Lin ponders the ethical conundrums of enhancing the bodies of soldiers through drugs, implants, and exoskeletons. Interestingly, Lin references the Nuremberg Code and the Declaration of Helsinki as indicating providing clear limits against such experimentation and also notes the possibility that enhanced soldiers will be considered “biological weapons” under the relevant Convention.
At Wired, David Axe, looks at the possibility of such ‘bio-enhanced ‘soldiers becoming a reality given past and current interest by military scientists. Axe’s general conclusion is that interest is strong but technology is currently at a foundational stage. In regard to the ‘offensive’ use of biological intervention, Axe notes some pretty threatening advances including the use of targeted viruses.
The Royal Society has released its report on the application of neuroscience in a military and law enforcement context. The report focuses on two specific applications: (1) performance enhancement of military/police personnel and (2) performance degradation of perceived enemies. Of particular personal interest was Part 3 which outlines how any new advance in weaponry is likely to be effected by existing customary, humanitarian and human rights law.
David Axe. of the excellent ‘War Is Boring’, talks in this video about drone systems, and how – if given the appearance of an autonomous voice – drone warfare will allow operators to “blame the machine” for missed military targets or other mishaps which kill civilians. The video is in connection with this lengthier article on drones called ‘Deadlier Drones Are Coming’.
Sometimes it seems like science fiction and the real world are beginning to blur: international hacking masterminds, mysterious chemical assassinations, robot warfare etc. So this Wired article on a recent US intelligence conference predicting everything from “Superhumans” to “biohacking” seems about right.
Here is an article charting the role of psychologists in the development of US ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ (aka torture) in Guantanamo Bay. It is interesting that the techniques developed from SERE (survival, evasion, resistance and escape) training and the experts involved resolutely deny any connection with torture. Also check out this commentary on Mind Hacks.