Wag the Dog: research to practice

I was reading a biograph of Eisenhower by Jean Smith, entitled Eisenhower in War and Peace this past weekend. Smith devotes some text to Eisenhower’s famous final speech, in which he warns the public regarding the rapidly increasing power of the “military-industrial complex.”  In the same speech, unknown to me earlier, he also warns of how research agendas at universities are going to be increasingly set by the funding charters that the government authors, and that this may cause academic creativity and freedom to be replaced by shorter-term government rudder control.  This dynamic is interesting both because it has come to be so true, and because trend lines continue to further take us in the direction of academic subcontracting of funding agency goals.  In a March 2012 article by Michael Tennison and Jonathan Moreno, Neuroscience, Ethics and National Security, the authors argue that neuroscience research for the sake of intelligence work is directly constructing a future in which the brain-machine and brain-chemistry interfaces are far more sophisticated and effective at changing gross human behavior.  They warn that these very same techniques will then spill over into the civilian world, with consequences in ethical terms that we as a society have not really considered.  This reason essay hearkens of Eisenhower’s warnings in a twenty-first century manner, and I wonder how authors forty years hence will make the same trend lines apparent to our grandchildren.

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