Military funding for telepathy

Wired.com reports that the Pentagon is investing in the possibilities of telepathy on the battlefield:

Forget the battlefield radios, the combat PDAs or even infantry hand signals. When the soldiers of the future want to communicate, they’ll read each other’s minds.

At least, that’s the hope of researchers at the Pentagon’s mad-science division Darpa. The agency’s budget for the next fiscal year includes $4 million to start up a program called Silent Talk. The goal is to “allow user-to-user communication on the battlefield without the use of vocalized speech through analysis of neural signals.” That’s on top of the $4 million the Army handed out last year to the University of California to investigate the potential for computer-mediated telepathy.

Before being vocalized, speech exists as word-specific neural signals in the mind. Darpa wants to develop technology that would detect these signals of  “pre-speech,” analyze them, and then transmit the statement to an intended interlocutor. Darpa plans to use EEG to read the brain waves. It’s a technique they’re also testing in a project to devise mind-reading binoculars that alert soldiers to threats faster the conscious mind can process them.

The project has three major goals, according to Darpa. First, try to map a person’s EEG patterns to his or her individual words. Then, see if those patterns are generalizable — if everyone has similar patterns. Last, “construct a fieldable pre-prototype that would decode the signal and transmit over a limited range.”

The military has been funding a handful of  mind-tapping technology recently, and already have monkeys capable of telepathic limb control. Telepathy may also have advantages beyond covert battlefield chatter. Last year, the National Research Council and the Defense Intelligence Agency released a report suggesting that neuroscience might also be useful to “make the enemy obey our commands.” The first step, though, may be getting a grunt to obey his officer’s remotely-transmitted thoughts.

The approach seems to be physiological rather than New Age mystical, as such, but still. . . .Does this bother you? What about working on neuroscience that would “make the enemy obey our commands”? Couldn’t the state use that technology to make its citizens obey its commands?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Carl Vehse

    The military has been working on that technology for years – it’s called nonlethal weapons, and includes such things as:

    Active Denial Technology
    Acoustic Weapons
    Thermobaric Weapoons
    High-power Microwaves
    M5 Crowd Control Munitions
    M84 Stun Grenade
    Malodorants and Eye/Throat irritants
    Nausea-inducing Chemical Sprays
    Sponge Rounds for Shotguns
    Crowd Dispersal Cartridges
    Mobility Denial System

    Check out the DoD Joint Non Lethal Weapons Program.

    Some of these weapon systems are being integrated into use by law enforcement agencies.

    And, of course, there’s the steady elimination of the 2nd Amendment, especially by the current TOTUS.

    So don’t worry about maintaining a supply of anti-EEG aluminum hats.

  • Carl Vehse

    The military has been working on that technology for years – it’s called nonlethal weapons, and includes such things as:

    Active Denial Technology
    Acoustic Weapons
    Thermobaric Weapoons
    High-power Microwaves
    M5 Crowd Control Munitions
    M84 Stun Grenade
    Malodorants and Eye/Throat irritants
    Nausea-inducing Chemical Sprays
    Sponge Rounds for Shotguns
    Crowd Dispersal Cartridges
    Mobility Denial System

    Check out the DoD Joint Non Lethal Weapons Program.

    Some of these weapon systems are being integrated into use by law enforcement agencies.

    And, of course, there’s the steady elimination of the 2nd Amendment, especially by the current TOTUS.

    So don’t worry about maintaining a supply of anti-EEG aluminum hats.

  • Matt C.

    The state already uses technology to make us obey its commands (traffic signals, automatic withholding, guns, etc). Still, it’s not as though we have no choice but to obey. Even with something more sophisticated, no system is perfect. Disobedience may require different means (tin-foil hats, removing our locator chip, etc), but it will always be possible.

  • Matt C.

    The state already uses technology to make us obey its commands (traffic signals, automatic withholding, guns, etc). Still, it’s not as though we have no choice but to obey. Even with something more sophisticated, no system is perfect. Disobedience may require different means (tin-foil hats, removing our locator chip, etc), but it will always be possible.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Are you sure this post isn’t misplaced? It seems as though it belongs in the category of Fairy Tales. Yet, it is disturbing on many levels. It is disturbing that tax payer dollars are used for this kind of stuff.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Are you sure this post isn’t misplaced? It seems as though it belongs in the category of Fairy Tales. Yet, it is disturbing on many levels. It is disturbing that tax payer dollars are used for this kind of stuff.

  • WebMonk

    Even what DARPA is looking at here is well beyond the ability of accomplishment. I worked in this exact field for a while (brainwave analysis for lie detection, to be precise) and we are WAY short of being capable of accomplishing what the article talks about.

    With a full ERP and ERF setup in a laboratory, scientists can get advanced notice that you are about to say something – no problem. WHAT you are about to say is quite a different thing, especially when we started dealing with the precision and vagaries of language.

    Ain’t gonna happen.

    Vehse, you’ve got issues if you think that thermobaric weapons are “non-lethal”!!!! LOL!

    Also, I would not suggest using whatever site that is that you pointed to Vehse. It’s got some major security issues. I don’t know that they would hack people viewing the site, but they certainly have the setup to do so if they wish. After the third type of warning, I closed the window. Maybe I’ll try it at home with a secure computer and browser.

  • WebMonk

    Even what DARPA is looking at here is well beyond the ability of accomplishment. I worked in this exact field for a while (brainwave analysis for lie detection, to be precise) and we are WAY short of being capable of accomplishing what the article talks about.

    With a full ERP and ERF setup in a laboratory, scientists can get advanced notice that you are about to say something – no problem. WHAT you are about to say is quite a different thing, especially when we started dealing with the precision and vagaries of language.

    Ain’t gonna happen.

    Vehse, you’ve got issues if you think that thermobaric weapons are “non-lethal”!!!! LOL!

    Also, I would not suggest using whatever site that is that you pointed to Vehse. It’s got some major security issues. I don’t know that they would hack people viewing the site, but they certainly have the setup to do so if they wish. After the third type of warning, I closed the window. Maybe I’ll try it at home with a secure computer and browser.

  • WebMonk

    As far as doing things that “make the enemy obey our commands”, that is so far out into make-believe land that I can’t even begin to imagine how it would be dealt with or the possible applications/repercussions in real life.

  • WebMonk

    As far as doing things that “make the enemy obey our commands”, that is so far out into make-believe land that I can’t even begin to imagine how it would be dealt with or the possible applications/repercussions in real life.

  • Carl Vehse

    Vehse, you’ve got issues if you think that thermobaric weapons are “non-lethal”!!!! LOL!

    In case you are not aware, there are lethal and non-lethal categories of thermobaric weapons.

  • Carl Vehse

    Vehse, you’ve got issues if you think that thermobaric weapons are “non-lethal”!!!! LOL!

    In case you are not aware, there are lethal and non-lethal categories of thermobaric weapons.

  • WebMonk

    Yes, I am aware of those. We dealt with the neural side of military tech, but I am aware of the other areas, I just don’t consider them to be in the non-lethal category.

    Technically dynamite can be non-lethal if you just use a really tiny bit of it not too close to a person. I don’t consider dynamite to be in the non-lethal category. Ditto for these.

  • WebMonk

    Yes, I am aware of those. We dealt with the neural side of military tech, but I am aware of the other areas, I just don’t consider them to be in the non-lethal category.

    Technically dynamite can be non-lethal if you just use a really tiny bit of it not too close to a person. I don’t consider dynamite to be in the non-lethal category. Ditto for these.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    I have to wonder whether this would allow a distinction between thoughts that are intended for the other soldier to hear and thoughts that are not.

    Also, while speech that is spoken exists as word-specific neural signals before it is spoken, if it is not going to be spoken, there are no such signals. There may be word-based thoughts, but these would be of various sorts, some intended as communication to others and some not. Would the user of such a system have privacy rights? Would such recordings be stored for later analysis? What if you “mouth off” to a superior in your mind?

    I find this quite problematic.

    I also have to imagine that if they ever got to the point where this were an objective science, the enemy could intercept the signals and decode them.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    I have to wonder whether this would allow a distinction between thoughts that are intended for the other soldier to hear and thoughts that are not.

    Also, while speech that is spoken exists as word-specific neural signals before it is spoken, if it is not going to be spoken, there are no such signals. There may be word-based thoughts, but these would be of various sorts, some intended as communication to others and some not. Would the user of such a system have privacy rights? Would such recordings be stored for later analysis? What if you “mouth off” to a superior in your mind?

    I find this quite problematic.

    I also have to imagine that if they ever got to the point where this were an objective science, the enemy could intercept the signals and decode them.

  • WebMonk

    The enemy can already intercept and decode our radio transmissions if they can crack the encryption. Ditto for any mentally stimulated messages.

    The easiest way to sense these sorts of things are for the subject to actually speak. There is a whole range of things that happen at that point, most of which preceed the actual spoken words by at least a little bit. Unfortunately, like you suggested, many of those things which are clearest to sense are tied to actual muscle movements, in this case the mouth and vocal chord controls.

    The soldiers could probably mouth the words to make it easier (“easier” being strictly relative!), but at that point they might as well say it out loud and use basic microphones to pick up the sound.

    This is (one way) how the advancements which let quadriplegic people control things – they try to move their muscles, and even though the muscles don’t respond, the brain still generates the signals and activity. For fully mobile people, if we try to move, we do, so it’s of little use, even ignoring the fact that discerning intended words in many orders of magnitudes more difficult than determining if someone is trying to move their right or left fingers.

  • WebMonk

    The enemy can already intercept and decode our radio transmissions if they can crack the encryption. Ditto for any mentally stimulated messages.

    The easiest way to sense these sorts of things are for the subject to actually speak. There is a whole range of things that happen at that point, most of which preceed the actual spoken words by at least a little bit. Unfortunately, like you suggested, many of those things which are clearest to sense are tied to actual muscle movements, in this case the mouth and vocal chord controls.

    The soldiers could probably mouth the words to make it easier (“easier” being strictly relative!), but at that point they might as well say it out loud and use basic microphones to pick up the sound.

    This is (one way) how the advancements which let quadriplegic people control things – they try to move their muscles, and even though the muscles don’t respond, the brain still generates the signals and activity. For fully mobile people, if we try to move, we do, so it’s of little use, even ignoring the fact that discerning intended words in many orders of magnitudes more difficult than determining if someone is trying to move their right or left fingers.

  • Carl Vehse

    A 1982 movie, Firefox, starred Clint Eastwood, whose character manages to steal a stealth Soviet fighter plane that could be flown and its weapons systems controlled by the thoughts of the pilot (who has to think in Russian).

  • Carl Vehse

    A 1982 movie, Firefox, starred Clint Eastwood, whose character manages to steal a stealth Soviet fighter plane that could be flown and its weapons systems controlled by the thoughts of the pilot (who has to think in Russian).

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    So readers of this blog even have expertise in this kind of thing! I continue to be amazed.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    So readers of this blog even have expertise in this kind of thing! I continue to be amazed.


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