26/05/2006 6 min #1044

We are moving ever closer to the era of mind control

Le 22 mai 06 à 08:10, Laurence a écrit :

Ci-dessous un article parmis d'autres qui aide à ouvrir les yeux sur ce qui se
trame dans notre dos :

We are moving ever closer to the era of mind control

The military interest in new brain-scanning technology is beginning to show a
sinister side

Steven Rose
Sunday February 5, 2006
The Observer


Brain scientists are on a roll. Concern about rising levels of mental
distress have resulted in unprecedented levels of funding in the US and
Europe. And a range of new technologies, from genetics to brain imaging, are
offering extraordinary insights into the molecular and cellular processes
underlying how we see, how we remember, why we become emotional. Brain
imaging has become familiar. Scanners, known by their initials - CAT, PET,
MRI - began as clinical tools, enabling surgeons to identify potential
tumours, the damage following a stroke or the diagnostic signs of incipient
dementia. But neuroscientists quickly seized on their wider potential. The
images of regions of the brain 'lighting up' when a person is thinking of
their lover, imagining travelling from home to the shops, or solving a
mathematical problem, have captured the imagination of researchers and
public alike. What if they could do more?

Recently I published the results of an experiment in which we looked at the
regions of the brain that became active when people chose between competing
products in supermarkets. Major companies, ranging from Coca-Cola to BMW,
are starting to image the brains of potential customers to study how they
respond to new designs or brands. They are beginning to speak of
'neuromarketing' and 'neuroeconomics.'

Such trends may be relatively innocuous, but the increasing state interest in
what the images might reveal is less so. Specifically, what if brain imaging
could predict future behaviour, or indicate guilt or innocence of a crime?
There are claims, for example, that it could reveal potential 'psychopathy',
that the brains of men convicted of brutal murders show significantly
abnormal patterns.

In the current legislative climate, where there have been attempts to
introduce pre-emptive detention for 'psychopaths' who have not yet been
convicted of any crime, such claims need to be addressed critically. They
are and will be resisted by the judiciary, but recent developments suggest
that this may be a frail defence against an increasingly authoritarian

More seriously, there is increasing military interest in the development of
techniques that can survey and possibly manipulate the mental processes of
potential enemies, or enhance the potential of one's own troops. There is
nothing new about such an interest. In the US, it stretches back at least
half a century. Impressed by claims that the Soviet Union was developing
psychological warfare, the CIA and the Defence Advanced Projects Agency
(Darpa) began their own programmes. Early experiments included the
clandestine feeding of LSD to their own operatives and attempts at
'brain-washing'. These were the forerunners of the hoods and white noise
used by the British in Northern Ireland - until judged illegal - and more
recently in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, where they inhabit an uncertain
borderline between what the US government regards as an acceptable level of
violence and the torture that it denies committing.

By the 1960s, Darpa, along with the US Navy, was funding almost all US
research into 'artificial intelligence', in order to develop methods and
technologies for the 'automated battlefield' and the 'intelligent soldier'.
Contracts were let and patents taken out on techniques aimed at recording
signals from the brains of enemy personnel at a distance, in order to 'read
their minds'.

These efforts have burgeoned in the aftermath of the so-called 'war on
terror'. One US company claims to have developed a technique called 'brain- fingerprinting', which can 'determine the truth regarding a crime, terrorist
activities or terrorist training by detecting information stored in the
brain'. The stress of lying under interrogation is supposed to result in a
specific wave form which electrodes measuring the brain's fluctuating
electrical signals can detect. We may be sceptical about the validity of
such methods, but they indicate the direction in which research is heading.
The company claims its procedures have been accepted in evidence in court in
the US.

The step beyond reading thoughts is to attempt to control them directly. A
new technique - transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) - has begun to
generate interest. This focuses an intense magnetic field on specific brain
regions, and has been shown to affect thoughts, perceptions and behaviour.
There are suggestions it could be used to control obsessive-compulsive
behaviour, while some even take seriously the scenario envisaged in the film
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which TMS was used to erase
unwanted memories of a love affair gone wrong. Currently only possible if a
subject's head is put inside the relevant machine, TMS at a distance is now
under active military investigation. So is chip technology, which might
provide implanted prostheses to overcome sensory deficits or control
behaviour, and whose potential bioethics committees around Europe have been

It is tempting to dismiss all these as technological fantasies and their
proponents as sellers of snake oil, but the fact that a technology is faulty
doesn't mean it won't be used. One only has to think of the tens of
thousands of lobotomies carried out on schizophrenic patients in the past
century. Britain is one of the world's leading examples of a surveillance
society, observing its citizens through CCTV cameras and controlling their
behaviour with Asbos and Ritalin. The potential for surveillance of
citizen's thoughts has moved far beyond the visions of 1984

Science cannot happen without major public or private expenditure but its
goals are set at least as much by the market and the military as by the
disinterested pursuit of knowledge. This is why neuroscientists have a
responsibility to make their subject and its potentials as transparent as
possible, and why the voices of concerned citizens should be heard not
'downstream' when the technologies are already fully formed, but 'upstream'
while the science is still in progress. We have to find ways of ensuring
that such voices are listened through the cacophony of slogans about 'better
brains' - and the power of the military and the market.

· This is an edited extract from Better Humans? The Politics of Human
Enhancement and Life Extension, a collection of essays to be published by
Demos and the Wellcome Trust on Wednesday. Steven Rose is Professor of
Biology at the Open University.

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