“We need a program of psychosurgery for political control of our society. The purpose is physical control of the mind. Everyone who deviates from the given norm can be surgically mutilated.
The individual may think that the most important reality is his own existence, but this is only his personal point of view. This lacks historical perspective. Man does not have the right to develop his own mind. This kind of liberal orientation has great appeal. We must electronically control the brain. Someday armies and generals will be controlled by electric stimulation of the brain.È
Dr José Delgado. Director of Neuropsychiatry, Yale University Medical School Congressional Record, No. 26, Vol. 118 February 24, 1974.
The Guardian newspaper, that defender of truth in the, published an article by the Science Correspondent, Ian Sample, on 9 February 2007 entitled:
‘The Brain Scan that can read people’s intentions’, with the sub-heading: ‘Call for ethical debate over possible use of new technology in interrogation”.
“Using the scanner, we could look around the brain for this information and read out something that from the outside there’s no way you could possibly tell is in there. It’s like shining a torch around, looking for writing on a wall”, the scientists were reported as saying.
At the same time, London’s Science Museum was holding an exhibition entitled ‘Neurobotics: The Future of Thinking’. This venue had been chosen for the launch in October 2006 of the news that human thoughts could be read using a scanner. Dr Geraint Rees’ smiling face could be seen in a photograph at the Neurobotics website, under the heading “The Mind Reader”. Dr Rees is one of the scientists who have apparently cracked the problem which has preoccupied philosophers and scientists since before Plato: they had made entry into the conscious mind. Such a reversal of human historical evolution, announced in such a pedestrian fashion, makes one wonder what factors have been in play, and what omissions made, in getting together this show, at once banal and extraordinary. The announcement arrives as if out of a vacuum. The neuroscientist – modern-style hunter-gatherer of information and darling of the “Need to Know” policies of modern government – does little to explain how he achieved this goal of entering the conscious mind, nor does he put his work into any historical context. Instead, we are asked in the Science Museum’s programme notes:
How would you feel if someone could read your innermost thoughts? Geraint Rees of UCL says he can. By using brain-imaging technology he’s beginning to decode thought and explore the difference between the conscious and unconscious mind. But how far will it go? And shouldn’t your thoughts remain your personal business?
If Dr Rees has decoded the mind sufficiently for such an announcement to be made in an exhibition devoted to it, presumably somewhere is the mind which has been, and is continuing to be, decoded. He is not merely continuing his experiments using functional magnetic resolution scanning (fMRI) in the way neuroscientists have been observing their subjects under scanning devices for years, asking them to explain what they feel or think while the scientists watch to see which area lights up, and what the cerebral flow in the brain indicates for various brain areas. Dr Rees is decoding the mind in terms of conscious and unconscious processes. For that, one must have accessed consciousness itself. Whose consciousness? Where is the owner of that consciousness – and unconsciousness? How did he/she feel? Why not ask them to tell us how it feels, instead of asking us.
The Neurobotics Exhibition was clearly set up to make these exciting new discoveries an occasion for family fun, and there were lots of games for visitors to play. One gets the distinct impression that we are being softened up for the introduction of radical new technology which will, perhaps, make the mind a communal pool rather than an individual possession. Information technology seeks to connect us all to each other in as many ways as possible, but also, presumably, to those vast data banks which allow government control not only to access all information about our lives, but now also to our thoughts, even to our unconscious processing. Does anyone care?
One of the most popular exhibits was the ‘Mindball’ game, which required two players to go literally head-to-head in a battle for brainpower, and used ‘brainpower’ alone. Strapped up with headbands which pick up brain waves, the game uses neurofeedback, but the person who is calm and relaxed wins the game. One received the impression that this calmness was the spirit that the organisers wished to reinforce, to deflect any undue public panic that might arise from the news that private thoughts could now be read with a scanner. The ingress into the mind as a private place was primarily an event to be enjoyed with the family on an afternoon out:
Imagine being able to control a computer with only the power of your mind. Or read people’s thoughts and know if they’re lying. And what if a magnetic shock to the brain could make you more creative but should we be able to engineer our minds?
Think your thoughts are private? Ever told a lie and been caught red-handed? Using brain-scanning technology, scientists are beginning to probe our minds and tell if we’re lying. Other scientists are decoding our desires and exploring the difference between our conscious and unconscious mind. But can you really trust the technology?
Other searching questions are raised in the program notes, and more games:
Find out if you’ve got what it takes to be a modern-day spy in this new interactive family exhibition. After being recruited as a trainee spy, explore the skills and abilities required by real agents and use some of the latest technologies that help spies gather and analyse information. Later go on and discover what it’s like to be spied upon. Uncover a secret store of prototype gadgets that give you a glimpse into the future of spy technologies and finally use everything you’ve learnt to escape before qualifying as a fully-fledged agent!
There were also demonstrations of grateful paraplegics and quadriplegics showing how the gods of science have so unselfishly liberated them from their prisons: this was the serious Nob
el Prize side of the show.