Monday, November 21, 2011

Update; Steanso Freaks Out About Mind Reading

Just a quick word to say hi.  The weekend was good.
Friday night I had Crack practice with Andy and Sig while Amy went out to look at art, drink wine, and otherwise hang out with her friends.  At Cracktice we drank cheap beer, made cheap art, and hung out with each other.
Saturday we ran some errands, worked out, and went out for a nice dinner.
Sunday was a trip to Red Bud with Cassidy, Amy studying/Jason reading, exercise, and Mono E practice.
A nice, quiet weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Not too much else going on. 

Here's something I read recently.  I'm not sure how seriously to take it, although it sounds sort of intriguing and a little disturbing.  Paul Root Wolpe recently had a piece on CNN about advances in neuroscience which may soon make it possible for the government (or maybe any other organization with the proper equipment?) to employ brain imaging technology in a way that lets other people detect our thoughts.
I'm not exactly sure why, but I find this, on a visceral level, to be intensely creepy.
I can't say exactly why it bothers me so much.  Of course, on one level the mind immediately conjures a future where such devices could be used surreptitiously against a person.  In addition to obvious crime interrogation applications, one can imagine scenarios where clandestine technology is used for applications ranging from business negotiations, to the detection of honesty in a romantic partner, to parenting (wouldn't it be nice to just know whether your kids were being honest with you?).
Of course, in reality I'm guessing that the most immediate use of any sort of brain scan thought detection technology would involve fairly large machines and a more or less clinical, controlled environment.  I envision an interrogation facility where something like a CAT scan or MRI is used by law enforcement or military intelligence professionals to find out what a person is thinking or whether they're telling the truth.
This sort of secenario bothers me, also, but I'm not sure why.  After all, as a part of the war on terrorism the government has already admitted to engaging in "enhanced interrogation" techniques which, by many estimations, constitute a form of torture.  Can a brain scan be any worse?
Shouldn't I be more satisfied if our military can extract information from unwilling subjects without having to inflict serious pain or injury?
But for some reason I'm not.
I guess my hesitation occurs, of course, when I imagine the roles being flipped, and I imagine one of our own soldiers (or even myself) being subjected to an interrogation system in which ideas, feelings, or concepts are pulled from a person's head against their will.  Maybe even more than being forced to give up information, there's something disturbing about the idea that thoughts could be stolen from you.  It's something that's sort of horrifying to imagine in a military interrogation scenario (picture a POW's fellow soldiers being hunted down after their location has been extracted from his head), and perhaps even more disconcerting to picture in the less likely scenario in which a person might be clandestinely scanned (e.g., military or government personnel having tactical or security information stolen out of their heads without even knowing that they've given it up).
Another part of my unease undoubtedly is just a certain discombobulation that comes with the very idea that mind reading might be something that we have to deal with in the actual, foreseeable future.  How do you adjust your worldview to accommodate the notion that your thoughts may no longer be privately your own?  What does it mean to be an individual when your thoughts are no longer certain to be protected as separate and apart from the rest of the world?
If the ability to scan thoughts actually became available, viable, and widespread, I think it would have implications for our culture, our society, and our way of life that we really can't begin to predict.
Future shock- meaning the inability of the human mind to assimilate drastic changes brought about by rapid advancements in technology- is a phrase that might be appropriate to describe contemplation of widespread use of this technology (and without an abundance of hyperbole, I think).
Would the collective unconscious become a collective consciousness if brain scanning became widespread?  Would the technology be outlawed, tightly controlled, banned, and rarely used (maybe even taboo?) or would it become widespread and commonplace?  And if thought scanning became common and people became used to the idea that none of their thoughts could ever be truly private, how far would we be from a society with a sort of collective hive mind instead of being a human species comprised of billions of chaotic, unique, disruptive, imaginative individuals?
I know I'm overdoing it.
Like I said, future shock.

Anyway, the article got me thinking.

Hope everyone is doing okay!
Happy Thanksgiving week!

5 comments:

The League said...

As concerned about this as I am, I'm more concerned about when they figure out how to push signals going in the other way. We'll all be wearing tinfoil hats.

Also, I can tell you what the ESP cops would get from my brain.

1. Superman
2. Coffee
3. Checking Facebook
4. Maybe doing some work
5. What's Jamie doing?
6. Puppies!
7. What are the words to the "Full House theme song?"
8. Christina Hendricks
9. probably more Superman
10. What the hell is wrong with our passing offense?

J.S. said...

I think we both know that the ESP cops would first find out about the paralyzing fear that you have of portly children. And about those heists that you pulled off with those Pakistani acrobats.

The League said...

They weren't Pakistani acrobats. They were the toughest Sikh boy band ever.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2SUaoVy_iU

cardboardbelts said...

So I didn't actually read the post but I am commenting via my mom's iPad. Why does it have to be so neat?!

J.S. said...

Wait? Did that comment just call the iPad neat?! Someone has clearly hacked my girlfriend's account!! Where's Amy?! What have you done with Amy?!?!?!