Neuroscience - technology foresight


  • Magnus Jändel

Publish date: 2014-11-24

Report number: FOI-R--3921--SE

Pages: 50

Written in: Swedish


  • Neuroscience
  • brain
  • brain scanning
  • BCI
  • technical foresight


Neuroscience is the science of the brain and the nervous system. Its main application is medical, but this report is about enhancing healthy people's performance in defence and security applications. Many of these usages require careful ethical considerations but we focus on what is and may become technically possible - not what is appropriate and morally correct. The report is intended for readers without specialist knowledge but strives yet to inform about recent research breakthroughs. Chapter two begins with an overview of how the brain is built from neurons, mechanisms of learning and how the brain evolves. A handful of new results that partly contradicts the textbook view are presented towards the end of the chapter. Chapter three deals with three important applications of neuroscience: braincomputer interfaces for mind reading and for mind control as well as technical means for controlling and improving the brain. Neuropharmacology is treated only superficially. Key technology trends are marked with the symbol T and some of these, such as lie detection are relevant also in the short term. The conclusions in chapter four emphasizes that neuroscience, despite rapid and accelerating progress yet fails to offer a quantitative model for how the brain works, and thus differs from mature sciences on which engineering is based. Chapter three describes powerful interventions for connecting the brain to technical systems and for affecting brain function. However, in the absence of well-founded and quantitative scientific models, it will only rarely be ethically acceptable to apply these to healthy people. The risks are inestimable and we lack the clinical research that would make them manageable. In 20-30 years large-scale brain mapping combined with further technological progress in other areas will found a quantitative neuroscience that can serve as a firm basis for a wave of very significant technological breakthroughs.