SCANNING PHASE III MR. MAGNUS OLSSON
Lecture on History of Remote Influencing Technologies: Lars Drudgaard
Future brains: Controlling brains from outside by Vincent Walsh
Professor Vincent Walsh explains in this lecture some of the methods now used to image and stimulate the brain, their limits, potentials and dangers. His hope is to make people aware of the limitations within the science community that often appears all-knowing. Scientists boost the importance of their research with unrealistic claims that can never be reached.
Our understanding of the brain and how it works is still based on assumptions, yet many researchers claim that the brain research of today will explain everything. They also limit the discussion, by setting the norms for what can be discussed and what's not appropriate. It partially has to do with the pressure put on scientists to perform but also with the power structure in the scientific community itself.
However, this research will have widespread consequences. It’s not up to the scientists to make decisions alone; people need to be part of the decision process. There is no question that current developments will continue and will transform society, but decisions must be made regarding how to use, understand and conceptualize it; who’s going to use it, for what ends and on which people.
A century of biological and brain research supports the claim that scientists do wrong and even then - there is a conceptual continuity. The person who developed and refined lobotomy received the Nobel Prize; and José Delgado wanted a psycho civilized society in which people that didn’t behave as we wanted them to, would have their brains stimulated by electrodes.
There are claims today that sexual offenders on parole should have their brains imaged to see how the brain responds to certain stimuli – let’s say a picture of a child. Yet, it’s hard to tell if this response is going to lead to action or if it’s just an echo of the past.
FMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans are very interesting for lawyers and the justice system, the military, insurance companies, job companies and of course the health care system. In every case, there are some good things coming from this development, some limitations, some bad things, and there are some existential questions about what is like to be a human being.
For instance, FMRI can save a man who developed a brain tumor- that led him to became a murderer - from punishment if this type of behavior appears abruptly and isn’t typical, but it can also undermine a psychopathic murderer’s responsibility with the claim that “My brain made me do it”. These are extremes of course, but still, how we perceive the world and how we act upon it, are two different things, and we always should have a responsibility.
And it’s this type of responsibility that scientists today as people from tomorrow must take. No matter how easy we are to influence and what techniques are developed to look into certain parts of the brain, we still deal with a whole human being having a full experience, and not with a few neurocircuits. And throughout our lives, we grow and change. People and their brains are not constant.
Biological, psychological, and neurological sciences are not the same as physics; there are no eternal laws directing human behavior. And whatever goes on in our brains, it’s only meaningful in the context of behavior.
In this context of responsibility and the difference between thought and action, past, present and future, Walsh mentions the film Minority Report where people were sentenced to prison before they committed a crime on the idea that they would.
The brain imaging we’re talking about though are not snapshots of the brain that would immediately identify everything, but they’re based on comparisons between brains and brain states of a sample of the population that is thereafter generalized for whole populations. When it comes to criminal behavior we are dealing with particular individuals and not with a general population’s likely behavior. Therefore its use must be strictly regulated, as it will have real consequences on people’s lives and already is in some cases.
Even in the medical field, where electrodes in the brain are used to help people with Alzheimer’s, there are side effects. Because everything in the brain is interconnected you cannot stimulate a very restricted area of the brain, and that raises questions about what else is affected and if it’s all that good.
In 1912, in the United States, children were exposed to electromagnetic fields in the classroom because it was believed to enhance their intelligence. This past development is also important for research happening today regarding conceptual continuity. ("It didn't work by the way" in Walsh's words.)
Walsh speaks about enhancement and brings to our attention a study where scientists stimulated the brains of individuals to enhance their creativity. A good point was raised in this description, as Walsh stated that everything that is good usually comes with a cost. A Savant is a person with a great talent but a very low IQ, and scientists trying to stimulate the brain to create an exceptional talent in normal people, might have its negative outcomes here too.
Behind all these statements the sensation was that Walsh wanted to point out that a purely materialistic view of human beings, will only lead to a repetition of old mistakes that can become a danger for people in the future creating yet another era of injustice.
To get out of this rut, people need to take a stand; get interested and then scientists will see them as breathing thinking emotional whole individuals. If they don’t they’ll just be de-personalized masses and objects of science.
©Carmen Lupan (firstname.lastname@example.org)