Ethics Asylum

Image Credit: UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All Jan Sheuermann wanted to do was feed herself some chocolate. She ended up piloting the world’s most expensive fighter jet.

Sheuermann is quadriplegic, unable to move her arms and legs due to a neurodegenerative disease. So when scientists from the military’s future-science arm Darpa and the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories approached her in 2012 about plugging her brain into a robotic arm, the most she hoped for was the ability to serve herself some candy. Two years later, towards the end of her stint as a neuromotor guinea pig, the scientists changed the game. Instead of connecting Sheuermann’s brain interface to a robotic arm, they connected her to a flight simulator. She’d use the same neural connections to pilot an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—the military’s next-gen attack jet. And despite the fact that the agency unveiled the flight…

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