AI-controlled brain implants that can detect and treat mood disorders have been tested in humans for the first time, according to Nature. The studies, fund ed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), bring the Pentagon one step closer to its eventual goal of treating U.S. soldiers and veterans who suffer from depression and PTSD.
The research is not without ethical concerns:
One challenge with stimulating areas of the brain associated with mood, [Wayne Goodman, a psychiatrist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas] says, is the possibility of overcorrecting emotions to create extreme happiness that overwhelms all other feelings. Other ethical considerations arise from the fact that the algorithms used in closed-loop stimulation can tell the researchers about the person’s mood, beyond what may be visible from behaviour or facial expressions.
Even further are implications related directly to military conflict, as ethicist Dr Adam Henschke notes:
“It is important to recognize that the numbers vary across studies: 1.5-25% of research subjects displayed depression; increased aggression was observed in only 2% of the cases in one study. However, enhancement in the military context can directly impact when and how one decides to apply potentially lethal violence. The unwanted effects in this case are not merely side-effects: they demand primary consideration.