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Brain Interface Weapons War Crime Immunity

Could brain interface-controlled weapons, like systems currently under development by DARPA, provide immunity from prosecution for war crimes? A Cornell University law student has published an analysis that is worth considering.

Consider, for example, the so-called Luke's binoculars (a reference to the device used by Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars film). The idea is to use an EEG scan of the soldier's brain to help alert him to potential threats that he picks up subliminally, and to make decisions before he is consciously aware of making a choice.

Recent developments and discoveries in the disparate technology areas of flat-field, wide-angle optics, large pixel-count digital imagers, cognitive visual processing algorithms, neurally-based target detection signatures and ultra-low power analog-digital hybrid signal processing electronics have led DARPA to believe that focused technology development, system design, and system integration efforts may produce revolutionary capabilities for the warfighter.

The final objective of the DARPA CT2WS program is the development of prototype soldier-portable digital imaging threat queuing systems capable of effective detection ranges of 1-10 km against dismounts and vehicles while simultaneously surveying a 120-degree or greater field of view (FOV).

Stephen White, the Cornell law student, makes the following point in his paper.

"In cases where pilots using brain-machine interface weapons are charged with war crimes, however, the issue may prove dispositive. The pilot may have fired his weapon without having made either a conscious or voluntary act before the ensuing deaths occurred.

If neural-interfaced weapons were designed to fire at the time of recognition rather than after the disambiguation process, a process that would likely need to occur for the pilot to differentiate between combatants and protected persons, the pilot firing them presumably would lack criminal accountability for the act implicit in willful killing.

The use of machine interfaces may also lead to problematic results in the context of determining whether or not a volitional act took place."
(Brave New World: Neurowarfare and the Limits of International Humanitarian Law, p. 197

SF fans were aware of these devices a generation ago. These interfaces were explored in the 1982 film Firefox, which featured a plane with "thought-controlled, thought-activated" weapons systems.


(Firefox trailer)

From The Register; thanks to Moira for the story and references.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/31/2009)

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