This isn't your grandfather's or even your father's military. Rapid technological advancements in weapons systems have revolutionized our fighting forces in recent years, but the next wave could be a real game-changer. The Pentagon is now working on a system that would allow troops to control weapons with their minds. The Next-Generation Non-Surgical Neurotechnology, or N3 program, is designed to tap into human brain waves, to allow direct two-way interaction between machines and their operators. The idea is to allow humans to control and interact with weapons as if the weapon was an extension of their own body.
Dr. Justin Sanchez is with the Pentagon's research arm, known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). "What we've done at DARPA is develop the technology in order to sense these (brain) signals in real time, or even write signals into the brain," he explained recently. "The brain is an extraordinary organ, and it has the potential to completely change the way we interact with technology."
Of course, technology like this is fraught with ethical and safety issues, a fact not lost on researchers. "We know that these technologies are incredibly powerful, and we also know that they can be used for good or for ill, and without a doubt these kinds of technologies are going to introduce new societal questions that we are all going to have to address," says Sanchez.
And for those who think this sounds like a far-fetched idea out of a science fiction movie, much of the technology we take for granted today once started out that way. "GPS, the Internet and Siri all came out of Department of Defense kinds of technologies, but they ultimately came together in a way that changed society," says Sanchez.