Neuroenhancements in the Military: A Mixed-Method Pilot Study on Attitudes of Staff Officers to Ethics and Rules.

Utilising science and technology to maximize human performance is often an essential feature of military activity. This can often be focused on mission success rather than just the welfare of the individuals involved. This tension has the potential to threaten the autonomy of soldiers and military physicians around the taking or administering of enhancement neurotechnologies (e.g., pills, neural implants, and neuroprostheses). The Hybrid Framework was proposed by academic researchers working in the U.S. context and comprises “rules” for military neuroenhancement (e.g., ensuring transparency and maintaining dignity of the warfighter). Integrating traditional bioethical perspectives with the unique requirements of the military environment, it has been referenced by military/government agencies tasked with writing official ethical frameworks. Our two-part investigation explored the ethical dimensions of military neuroenhancements with military officers – those most likely to be making decisions in this area in the future. In three workshops, structured around the Hybrid Framework, we explored what they thought about the ethical issues of enhancement neurotechnologies. From these findings, we conducted a survey (N = 332) to probe the extent of rule endorsement. Results show high levels of endorsement for a warfighter’s decision-making autonomy, but lower support for the view that enhanced warfighters would pose a danger to society after service. By examining the endorsement of concrete decision-making guidelines, we provide an overview of how military officers might, in practice, resolve tensions between competing values or higher-level principles. Our results suggest that the military context demands a recontextualisation of the relationship between military and civilian ethics.