We have always been captivated by the prospect of weapons that could be fired with just a single thought. No action has to be taken by the soldier or weapons operator, all it would take is for the person to want the weapon to be fired, and it would be done. This may sound like a pipe-dream to some but British scientists believe that this could soon be a possibility. Many of the technologies and components are already in development and such devices will draw heavily on nuero-technology research. Devices and concepts such as brain-computer interfaces will have to be used, which has come against another large hurdle in ethics.
The main issue is that some of these components and technologies will have to stimulate or effect the brain’s inner workings and natural processes and will blur the line between what is human and what is machine. The risks are great but the rewards are even greater, ranging from advancements in the fields of medicine, human enhancement, and of course, warfare. However, some or all of these advancements may require a computer chip to be implemented in human brains which brings up the image of a cyborg. Because of the influence the chip would have on inner brain workings, some people are afraid that those who have the chip implemented into their brains would have a reduced sense of responsibility for their actions, which could lead to horrible consequences. Being able to control weapons of war remotely without having to risk actual human life may also cause people to become insensitive to the horrors of war.
Despite these large ethical issues, this technology, research, and these “thinking-cap” helmets and components will likely continue to advance and may one day be available as consumer or pharmaceutical products with the potential to treat things like Parkinson’s disease, although perhaps at the risk of losing our identity and individualism. Of course, the most interested party in these “thinking-cap” gadgets is the military. The prospect of having armies being able to mind-control their weapons, perhaps even at a distance, is just too good for organizations like the pentagon to pass on. It could mean remote operating jets and tanks with no need to risk human life in future wars.
Aside from ethical issues, there are also technical problems with these innovations. How do we deal with errant thoughts when wearing these “thinking-caps”? It is unlikely that we could just get rid of the errant thoughts that the users of these devices would have while controlling the weapons. What if the user makes a mistake and tells a tank to shoot in the wrong direction? How will we catch errant thoughts and distinguish them from the real commands that need to be executed? Figuring out these problems can and will prove to be a significant challenge before these gadgets can be used in the field. However, if we can work past both the technical and ethical issues involving these “thinking caps” , it will be a major breakthrough for humanity.