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Overwhelming Enemy Cognitive Abilities

According to Wired, the Air Force is trying to find ways to "degrade enemy performance and artificially overwhelm enemy cognitive abilities."

One component of the research effort, called Biobehavioral Performance, is looking for military specimens who are already resistant to physical or mental stressors. By analyzing the biochemical brain pathways of troops who are cool under pressure, the Air Force wants an “external stimulant” that can act as a synthetic version of optimal cognitive stress response and keep airmen operating at top level.

Resisting stress is good, but destroying your enemy with stress is even better. “Conversely, the chemical pathway area could include methods to degrade enemy performance and artificially overwhelm enemy cognitive capabilities,” the Air Force call for proposals notes.

I don't think this counts as a prediction, but there is a interesting reference to this idea in the excellent novel Too Many Magicians by Randall Garrett, which was serialized in Analog in 1966. It is an alternative history novel, in which the Plantagenet kings survived and still ruled a large empire; also, the basic principles of magic were discovered around 1300 and systematically researched.

In the story, a magician and research "scientist" named Sir Lyon Grey was invited to demonstrate a new magical weapon for the King. White magic could not be used to harm others, so the "weapon" was designed to confuse the enemy and render him incapable of performing even the simplest tasks.

It was an odd-looking device. The main bulk was a brass cylinder eight inches in diameter and eighteen inches long. This cylinder was mounted on a short tripod which held it horizontally four inches off the table top. On one end of the cylinder, there were two handles, fitted so that the cylinder could be aimed by gripping with both hands. From the other end there projected a smaller cylinder, some three inches in diameter and ten inches long. The last four inches flared out to a diameter of six inches, making a bell-like muzzle.

Sir Lyon Grey ... smiled and swiveled the gleaming metal device around so that the bell-like muzzle pointed directly at Lord Darcy. "I am ready, Sire," he said...

The task was a simple one. Pick up the cartridge, place it in the chamber, close the lock, aim and fire.

Lord Darcy reached for the pistol with his right hand and for the cartridge with his left. Somehow, he caught the handgun wrong, so that he gripped it upside down, with the muzzle facing him. At the same time, his fingers closed on the cartridge wrong, so that it slipped from his grasp and skittered across the table. He reached out again, grabbed at it, and it slid away. Then, angry, he slammed his palm down on it and finally caught it.

Then there was a loud clatter. In focusing his attention on the cartridge, he had allowed the pistol to slip from the grasp of his other hand...

This device has an even more profound effect on a team of people trying to accomplish a task.

From Wired.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/5/2009)

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