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Performance-Enhancing Technologies and Moral Responsibility in the Military

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Abstract

New scientific advances have created previously unheard of possibilities for enhancing combatants' performance. Future war fighters may be smarter, stronger, and braver than ever before. If these technologies are safe, is there any reason to reject their use? In this article, I argue that the use of enhancements is constrained by the importance of maintaining the moral responsibility of military personnel. This is crucial for two reasons: the military's ethical commitments require military personnel to be morally responsible agents, and moral responsibility is necessary for integrity and the moral emotions of guilt and remorse, both of which are important for moral growth and psychological well-being. Enhancements that undermined combatants' moral responsibility would therefore undermine the military's moral standing and would harm combatants' well-being. A genuine commitment to maintaining the military's ethical standards and the well-being of combatants therefore requires a careful analysis of performance-enhancing technologies before they are implemented.

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... Recent discussions of moral enhancement have centered on strengthening human empathy [2,[10][11][12] and reducing recidivism [13][14][15][16][17]. Curiously, there has been little attention paid to potential applications in the ethics of war [18]. The current paper moves towards filling that lacuna. ...
... Some even think General acted permissibly in releasing her. 18 However, we must reconsider the apparent justification for General killing Sergeant, which I take to be this: DEFENSE: General is permitted to defensively kill Sergeant because (a) Sergeant poses an unjust threat to nonliable persons and (b) killing Sergeant satisfies necessity, proportionality, and imminence requirements for permissible otherdefense. ...
... 17 See also my response to Objection 9 below. 18 The 1998 film Saving Private Ryan portrays a similar case: U.S. Corporal Upham (Jeremy Davies) spares German soldier 'Steamboat Willie' (Joerg Stadler), who later returns and fatally wounds Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) and is subsequently killed by Upham. ...
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Moral agential neuroenhancement (MANE) can transform us into better people. However, critics of MB raise four central objections to MANEs use: (1) It destroys moral freedom; (2) it kills one moral agent and replaces them with another, better agent; (3) it carries significant risk of infection and illness; (4) it benefits society but not the enhanced person; and (5) it’s wrong to experiment on nonconsenting persons. Herein, I defend MANE’s use for prisoners of war (POWs) fighting unjustly. First, the permissibility of killing unjust combatants entails that, in cases where MANE is equally or more likely as termination to reduce moral recidivism in unjust combatants, then MANE is morally justified. Second, the relevant infections and illnesses caused by MANE are less bad than death, so MANE leaves unjust POWs better off than the alternative. Third, just as incarceration is often permissible despite benefitting society but not the incarcerated, the same holds for unjust POWs. Fourth, we should accept a broader construal of “benefit” that includes moral benefits. Thus, 3 and 4 are false when applied to unjust POWs. Fifth, medical experimentation likely to help nonconsenting persons is sometimes permissible. Because MANE is likely to help unjust POWs irrespective of their consent or lack thereof, its use is permissible. Sixth, basic principles of proper medical care support the use of MANE on unjust POWs as pro tanto morally obligatory. I conclude that militaries should therefore begin to employ MANE for unjust POWs.
... However, most physical enhancement drugs have serious side effects, and their effects are very short-lived and do not fundamentally alter human functions. These drugs are therefore used only in some extreme cases [67,68]. ...
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As emerging technologies have advanced, some countries have issued reports on human performance enhancement efforts in recent years. Human performance enhancement is a prominent theme in the military field. As a type of potentially disruptive technology, human performance enhancement technology (HPET) is of vital importance in promoting military combat effectiveness, developing national defense science and technology, and transforming military medicine. This paper analyzes the current development status of critical HPETs, examines challenges facing such development, and points out existing problems in the field. Finally, future development directions of HPET are suggested. We hope this review will be of interest to scientists and engineers, who should carefully develop this technology to maximize human potential and focus on our social security.
... Highlighted here is the ethical dilemma of the social attributions between different types of drugs, where one type of drug is permissible, while another is proscribed, although both may have similar mind effects (Wigger and Oelschlager 2017). Wolfendale (2008) argues that the use of performance-enhancing technologies among soldiers should be conducted with caution. He has examined a number of neuroethical concerns relating to performance-enhancing technologies among military personnel. ...
Article
The growing area of military bio-technologies, especially the use of cogniceuticals, raises several ethical concerns for military physicians. These include the role of military physicians in prescribing amphetamines whose long-term effects are largely unknown, and the possible undermining of the ethic of “do no harm,” since amphetamines may diminish a soldier’s moral responsibility. Below, we outline some important questions relating to the ethics of amphetamines and medical military physicians.
... However, these outcomes have little relevance in the context of enhancement for the military purposes considered in this paper. The utility of cognitive enhancement is different in military situations, as benefits must be weighed against the potential harms in circumstances where the ability to complete objectives safely and make better decisions can mean the difference between life and death (Wolfendale, 2008;McKinley et al., 2012). ...
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Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique which provides unique potential to directly improve human capability on a temporary, at needs, basis. The purpose of this paper is to consider the utility of tDCS through analysis of the potential risks and benefits in the context of defence service personnel. First, we look at the potential benefits, focusing primarily on warfighter survivability and enriching cognition quality in support of command and control. Second, we look at the potential detriments to tDCS military use, focusing on adverse effects, safety considerations, and risk. Third, we examine how the level of risk can be mitigated through military doctrine development focusing on safety parameters and exclusion criteria. Finally, we explore the future prospects of military tDCS use, particularly in terms of addressing gaps in the literature so that tDCS can be used ethically and efficaciously at the level of individual personnel.
... There has long been concern that enhancers such as amphetamines may diminish the capability and the responsibility of an agent during action (e.g., Bower and Phelan, 2003). Wolfendale (2008) discusses the moral difficulties of technologies that dissociate an agent from his or her actions, and the importance of centering moral responsibility on the agent. Moral disengagement is a feature of a person's ability to commit heinous acts (Bandura, 1999), and many common pharmaceutical enhancers may affect a person's moral judgement (Crockett, 2014). ...
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Advances in neuroscience and pharmacology have led to improvements in the cognitive performance of people with neurological disease and other forms of cognitive decline. These same methods may also afford cognitive enhancement in people of otherwise normal cognitive abilities. “Cosmetic”, or supranormal, cognitive enhancement offers opportunities to enrich our social or financial status, our interactions with others, and the common wealth of our community. It is common to focus on the potential benefits of cognitive enhancement, while being less than clear about the possible drawbacks. Here I examine the harms or side-effects associated with a range of cognitive enhancement interventions. I propose a taxonomy of harms in cognitive enhancement, with harms classified as (neuro)biological, ethical, or societal. Biological harms are those that directly affect the person’s biological functioning, such as when a drug affects a person’s mood or autonomic function. Ethical harms are those that touch on issues such as fairness and cheating, or on erosion of autonomy and coercion. Societal harms are harms that affect whole populations, and which are normally the province of governments, such as the use of enhancement in military contexts. This taxonomy of harms will help to focus the debate around the use and regulation of cognitive enhancement. In particular it will help to clarify the appropriate network of stakeholders who should take an interest in each potential harm, and in minimizing the impact of these harms.
... Recent research has suggested that, by reducing the consolidation of emotional memory, propranolol might also be an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), whether by being administered before exposure to a potentially traumatic situation or immediately afterwards (Mills and Dimsdale, 1991; Pitmann et al., 2002; Stein et al., 2007; Vaiva et al., 2003). The possibility that propranolol could be used in this way in the context of military or rescue operations raises serious ethical concerns (Craigie, 2007; Wolfendale, 2008). For example, Henry et al. (2007) speculated that propranolol might, by decreasing anxiety, alter practical decisions in war, such as assessment of danger or of others' needs. ...
Article
Noradrenergic pathways are involved in mediating the central and peripheral effects of physiological arousal. The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of noradrenergic transmission in moral decision-making. We studied the effects in healthy volunteers of propranolol (a noradrenergic beta-adrenoceptor antagonist) on moral judgment in a set of moral dilemmas pitting utilitarian outcomes (e.g., saving five lives) against highly aversive harmful actions (e.g., killing an innocent person) in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group design. Propranolol (40mg orally) significantly reduced heart rate, but had no effect on self-reported mood. Importantly, propranolol made participants more likely to judge harmful actions as morally unacceptable, but only in dilemmas where harms were 'up close and personal'. In addition, longer response times for such personal dilemmas were only found for the placebo group. Finally, judgments in personal dilemmas by the propranolol group were more decisive. These findings indicate that noradrenergic pathways play a role in responses to moral dilemmas, in line with recent work implicating emotion in moral decision-making. However, contrary to current theorizing, these findings also suggest that aversion to harming is not driven by emotional arousal. Our findings are also of significant practical interest given that propranolol is a widely used drug in different settings, and is currently being considered as a potential treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in military and rescue service personnel.
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Chapter
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Chapter
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Chapter
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abstractTo date, 1.7 million US military service personnel have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Of those, one in five are suffering from diagnosable combat-stress related psychological injuries including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). All indications are that the mental health toll of the current conflicts on US troops and the medical systems that care for them will only increase. Against this backdrop, research suggesting that the common class of drugs known as beta-blockers might prevent the onset of PTSD is drawing much interest. I urge caution against accepting too quickly the use of beta-blockers for dealing with the psychological injuries that combat experiences can wreak. Beta-blockers are thought to work by disrupting the formation of emotionally disturbing memories that typically occur in the wake of traumatic events and that in some people manifest as PTSD. Focusing on a single dimension of soldiers' experience in combat, namely, their perpetration of other-directed violence, I argue that some of the emotional memories blunted by beta-blockers play important roles in the recovery of moral aspects of soldiers' selves damaged by experiences of combat violence — specifically, in the achievement of a state of grace— and, therefore, that the use of beta-blockers may come with distinct moral costs.
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When philosophers address personal identity, they usually explore numerical identity. When non-philosophers address personal identity, they often have in mind narrative identity. This book develops accounts of both senses of identity, arguing that both are normatively important, and is unique in its exploration of a wide range of issues in bioethics through the lens of identity. Defending a biological view of our numerical identity and a framework for understanding narrative identity, David DeGrazia investigates various issues for which considerations of identity prove critical. © Cambridge University Press 2005 and Cambridge University Press, 2010.
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The law now generally excuses soldiers who obey a superior's criminal order unless its illegality would be immediately obvious to anyone on its face. Such illegality is "manifest," on account of its procedural irregularity, its moral gravity, and the clarity of the legal prohibition it violates. These criteria, however, often conflict with one another, are over- and underinclusive, and vulnerable to frequent changes in methods of warfare. Though sources of atrocity are shown to be highly variable, these variations display recurrent patterns, indicating corresponding legal norms best suited to prevention. There are also discernible connections, that the law can better exploit, between what makes men willing to fight ethically and what makes them willing to fight at all. Specifically, obedience to life-threatening orders springs less from habits of automatism than from soldiers' informal loyalties to combat buddies, whose disapproval they fear. Except at the very lowest levels, efficacy in combat similarly depends more on tactical imagination than immediate, letter-perfect adherence to orders. To foster such practical judgment in the field, military law should rely more on general standards than the bright-line rules it has favored in this area. A stringent duty to disobey all unlawful orders, coupled to a standard-like excuse for reasonable errors, would foster greater disobedience to criminal orders. It would encourage a more fine-grained attentiveness to soldiers' actual situations. It would thereby enable many to identify a superior's order as unlawful, under the circumstances, in situations where unlawfulness may not be immediately and facially obvious to all. This approach aims to prevent atrocity less by increased threat of ex post punishment, than by ex ante revisions in the legal structure of military life. It contributes to "civilianizing" military law while nonetheless building upon virtues already internal to the soldier's calling. In developing these conclusions, the author draws evidence from a wide array of recent wars and peacekeeping missions.
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Is it ever possible for people to act freely and intentionally against their better judgement? Is it ever possible to act in opposition to one's strongest desire? If either of these questions are answered in the negative, the common-sense distinctions between recklessness, weakness of will and compulsion collapse. This would threaten our ordinary notion of self-control and undermine our practice of holding each other responsible for moral failure. So a clear and plausible account of how weakness of will and self-control are possible is of great practical significance. Taking the problem of weakness of will as her starting point, Jeanette Kennett builds an admirably comprehensive and integrated account of moral agency which gives a central place to the capacity for self-control. Her account of the exercise and limits of self-control vindicates the common-sense distinction between weakness of will and compulsion and so underwrites our ordinary allocations of moral responsibility. She addresses with clarity and insight a range of important topics in moral psychology, such as the nature of valuing and desiring, conceptions of virtue, moral conflict, and the varieties of recklessness (here characterised as culpable bad judgement) - and does so in terms which make their relations to each other and to the challenges of real life obvious. Agency and Responsibility concludes by testing the accounts developed of self-control, moral failure, and moral responsibility against the hard cases provided by acts of extreme evil.
Article
What philosophers have lately come to accept as analysis of the concept of a person is not actually analysis of that concept at all. Strawson, whose usage represents the current standard, identifies the concept of a person as “the concept of a type of entity such that both predicates ascribing states of consciousness and predicates ascribing corporeal characteristics...are equally applicable to a single individual of that single type.”1 But there are many entities besides persons that have both mental and physical properties. As it happens—though it seems extraordinary that this should be so—there is no common English word for the type of entity Strawson has in mind, a type that includes not only human beings but animals of various lesser species as well. Still, this hardly justifies the misappropriation of a valuable philosophical term.
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Empirical work on and common observation of the emotions tells us that our emotions sometimes key us to the presence of real and important reason-giving considerations without necessarily presenting that information to us in a way susceptible of conscious articulation and, sometimes, even despite our consciously held and internally justified judgment that the situation contains no such reasons. In this paper, I want to explore the implications of the fact that emotions show varying degrees of integration with our conscious agency-from none at all to quite substantial-for our understanding of our rationality, and in particular for the traditional assumption that weakness of the will is necessarily irrational. The paper has two targets: The proximal target is the claim that in choosing the incontinent action rather than the continent one, the agent necessarily does something irrational; the distal target is the dominant naturalistic conception of how to justify norms of rationality. I'm taking aim at the latter through the former. The naturalist project aims to articulate and defend norms of rationality that are norms for the kind creatures we are-that is, for finite, embodied, social beings, with a specific cognitive architecture, functioning in particular environments. On the standard way of developing that project, norms of rationality are not a priori knowable and none can be viewed as privileged. Even norms as wellentrenched as norms prohibiting incontinence must await empirical support and recent work on the emotions raises the possibility that they might fail to get it.
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This article contends that in crucial respects effective soldiers are ethical soldiers, that good soldiers in the military sense are good soldiers in the moral sense, and that this is so for quite traditional reasons. The thesis is defended by identifying and then resolving basic paradoxes regarding what soldiers must be trained to do or be, e.g.: be trained to kill but also not to be brutal; be trained to react in combat situations almost automatically but also to deliberate and decide if a command is unlawful; as peacekeepers, be trained to be impartial but also to know right from wrong and be firmly committed to upholding the former and opposing the latter. It is shown that contradictory things are not really thus being called for. With the aid of a blend of deontology and virtue theory, it is argued that certain standard qualities of effective soldiers have an associated moral dimension. For example, true military courage implies an unwillingness to engage in cruelty; the self-control on which success of missions depends implies eschewing motives of personal vengeance; and the capacity for comprehending complex equipment and data implies a mentality for assessing the validity of orders.
Article
Orders, whether they are oral or written directives, remain an everyday occurrence in the Australian Defence Force and strict obedience is required for the effective running of a unit. But what happens when, for one reason or another, an unlawful order is given? Would a subordinate mindlessly follow such direction, or refuse to execute it? Are they even capable of telling the difference between a lawful and unlawful order? Whilst it was not practical to study all members of the Australian Defence Force, it was possible to conduct a small survey of the officer cadets and midshipmen (cadets) being trained at the Australian Defence Force Academy. These cadets were recruited by the military for their intelligence, leadership skills and potential for becoming officers in the Royal Australian Air Force, the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Navy. The graduating class of 2001 (218 third-year cadets) were surveyed to determine how they conceive of their rights and obligations in the area of superior orders and lawful dissent from orders. Given that when they graduate they will be required to issue orders to their subordinates and receive orders from their (more experienced) superiors, their knowledge about superior orders and lawful dissent is particularly interesting.
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In this article I discuss a hypothesis, known as the somatic marker hypothesis, which I believe is relevant to the understanding of processes of human reasoning and decision making. The ventromedial sector of the prefrontal cortices is critical to the operations postulated here, but the hypothesis does not necessarily apply to prefrontal cortex as a whole and should not be seen as an attempt to unify frontal lobe functions under a single mechanism. The key idea in the hypothesis is that 'marker' signals influence the processes of response to stimuli, at multiple levels of operation, some of which occur overtly (consciously, 'in mind') and some of which occur covertly (non-consciously, in a non-minded manner). The marker signals arise in bioregulatory processes, including those which express themselves in emotions and feelings, but are not necessarily confined to those alone. This is the reason why the markers are termed somatic: they relate to body-state structure and regulation even when they do not arise in the body proper but rather in the brain's representation of the body. Examples of the covert action of 'marker' signals are the undeliberated inhibition of a response learned previously; the introduction of a bias in the selection of an aversive or appetitive mode of behaviour, or in the otherwise deliberate evaluation of varied option-outcome scenarios. Examples of overt action include the conscious 'qualifying' of certain option-outcome scenarios as dangerous or advantageous. The hypothesis rejects attempts to limit human reasoning and decision making to mechanisms relying, in an exclusive and unrelated manner, on either conditioning alone or cognition alone.
Article
Preclinical considerations suggest that treatment with a beta-adrenergic blocker following an acute psychologically traumatic event may reduce subsequent posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. This pilot study addressed this hypothesis. Patients were randomized to begin, within 6 hours of the event, a 10-day course of double-blind propranolol (n = 18) versus placebo (n = 23) 40 mg four times daily. The mean (SD) 1-month Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) score of 11 propranolol completers was 27.6 (15.7), with one outlier 5.2 SDs above the others' mean, and of 20 placebo completers, 35.5 (21.5), t = 1.1, df = 29, p =.15. Two propranolol patients' scores fell above, and nine below, the placebo group's median, p =.03 (sign test). Zero of eight propranolol, but six of 14 placebo, patients were physiologic responders during script-driven imagery of the traumatic event when tested 3 months afterward, p =.04 (all p values one-tailed). These pilot results suggest that acute, posttrauma propranolol may have a preventive effect on subsequent PTSD.
Article
The somatic marker hypothesis proposes that both the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex are parts of a neural circuit critical for judgment and decision-making. Although both structures couple exteroceptive sensory information with interoceptive information concerning somatic/emotional states, they do so at different levels, thus making different contributions to the process. We define "primary inducers" as stimuli that unconditionally, or through learning (e.g., conditioning and semantic knowledge), can (perceptually or subliminally) produce states that are pleasurable or aversive. Encountering a fear object (e.g., a snake), a stimulus predictive of a snake, or semantic information such as winning or losing a large sum of money are all examples of primary inducers. "Secondary inducers" are entities generated by the recall of a personal or hypothetical emotional event or perceiving a primary inducer that generates "thoughts" and "memories" about the inducer, all of which, when they are brought to memory, elicit a somatic state. The episodic memory of encountering a snake, losing a large sum of money, imagining the gain of a large sum of money, or hearing or looking at primary inducers that bring to memory "thoughts" pertaining to an emotional event are all examples of secondary inducers. We present evidence in support of the hypothesis that the amygdala is a critical substrate in the neural system necessary for triggering somatic states from primary inducers. The ventromedial cortex is a critical substrate in the neural system necessary for the triggering of somatic states from secondary inducers. The amygdala system is a priori a necessary step for the normal development of the orbitofrontal system for triggering somatic states from secondary inducers. However, once this orbitofrontal system is developed, the induction of somatic states by secondary inducers via the orbitofrontal system is less dependent on the amygdala system. Perhaps the amygdala is equivalent to the hippocampus with regard to emotions, that is, necessary for acquiring new emotional attributes (anterograde emotions), but not for retrieving old emotional attributes (retrograde emotions). Given the numerous lesion and functional neuroimaging studies illustrating the involvement of the amygdala in complex cognitive and behavioral functions, including "social cognition," we suggest that this involvement is a manifestation of a more fundamental function mediated by the amygdala, which is to couple stimuli/entities with their emotional attributes, that is, the processing of somatic states from primary inducers.
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Psychotropic and other drugs can alter brain mechanisms regulating the formation, storage, and retrieval of different types of memory. These include "off label" uses of existing drugs and new drugs designed specifically to target the neural bases of memory. This paper discusses the use of beta-adrenergic antagonists to prevent or erase non-conscious pathological emotional memories in the amygdala. It also discusses the use of novel psychopharmacological agents to enhance long term semantic and short term working memory by altering storage and retrieval mechanisms in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Although intervention in the brain to alter memory as therapy or enhancement holds considerable promise, the long term effects of experimental drugs on the brain and memory are not known. More studies are needed to adequately assess the potential benefits and risks of these interventions.
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