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The Future of Mind Control 30

LarsWestergren writes "The Economist has two interesting articles about neuroscience. While a lot of media ink has been spent discussing the possible gains or threats of genetics, not much has been heard about the advances made in neuroscience which has a greater and more immediate threat of "overturning the essential nature of humanity". For instance, test subjects who were treated for depression by having their pleasure centers stimulated with electrodes fell in love with the experimenters. New drugs to combat shyness, forgetfulness, sleepiness and stress are on the way to the market, as well as a new breed of Super-Prozacs. The articles are here and here."
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The Future of Mind Control

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  • Who needs messy electrodes to fall in love when there's alt.binaries.nospam.*
  • are feeling sleepy....very sleepy...everyone reading this is now in my power!

    (C) Slashdot MindBot v1.0
  • What's unethical about making your kids (or yourself) happier, smarter and thinner?

    I think it would be unethical not to explore those possibilities.

    • I don't think research into wireheading was Thomas Jefferson had in mind with the "pursuit of happiness" thing.

      There's nothing inherently unethical about the research. But not considering possible downsides definitely is unethical. Not to mention dumb. No shortage of that kind of dumb, these days, when any mention of possible downsides is written off by corporate spokesdroids, etc, as if it's all from irrational anti-science people.

    • What's unethical about making your kids (or yourself) happier, smarter and thinner?

      What if others don't share your definition of "happier" or "smarter"? Or don't think thinner is a virtue?

      If you are changing yourself, hey, go for it - it is every competent adult's right to transform themselves in any manner they choose.

      But manipulating children - not merely leading them, as a parent should, but forcing them into your constraints - is a different matter. You're not letting them grow into competent adults, not letting them explore their own natures.

      • Modifying genes to make people more intelligent strikes me as a universally good thing. It seem strange for a Slashdot user to want to defend the existance of stupidity.

        Likewise with thinner - and if you don't believe me, just look at how many fat people there are who would be a great deal better off being thin.

        There's nothing inherently good about the constraints we get from nature; if we can improve on nature, I feel we should. Yes, that brings different constraints, but I think on the whole both individuals and society would be better off.

        • Modifying genes to make people more intelligent strikes me as a universally good thing.

          Problem is, how do you define "intelligent"?

          Who's more intelligent, someone who (like my girlfriend) speaks eight languages but can't figure a 20% tip, or someone who can do vector calculus in their head but has poor skills in their native language, let alone any others?

          Part of the danger we face is creating a "monoculture" of intelligence.

          and if you don't believe me, just look at how many fat people there are who would be a great deal better off being thin.

          There's a difference between "healthy" and thin. People should strive for the former, not the latter. Some people would be healthies if they were thinner, some people would be healthier if they were less thin.

          if we can improve on nature, I feel we should.

          If you want to make that choice for yourself, hey, go for it. But when you start forcing it on children who can't choose for themselves - and who, in the absence of your tampering, might have grown up into adults who would have choosen differently - that's a different kettle of fish.

          Yes, I'm glad my parents chose to get my twisted legs straightened out when I was an infant, and years later to pay for braces to re-arrange my teeth to fit into my head. Some things are inarguably defects and should be repaired.

          But I'm glad they didn't have the option to mess with my brain to make me better fit their idea of a "perfect" kid.

    • Could we simultaneously achieve "smarter and happier" for the entire population (or most of it anyway)? Suppose that the average intelligence (by whatever measure) of the population was doubled. How would the variety of repetitive and/or now slightly boring tasks required by our civilization be accomplished by a population of geniuses who considered them _totally_ boring? Would we have to supply them with "dumb and happy" pills during working hours? Or would we restrict the engineered "smart" genes to a chosen few?
  • The future? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by orangesquid ( 79734 ) <{orangesquid} {at} {}> on Friday May 24, 2002 @10:37AM (#3578908) Homepage Journal
    "You have quite a good memory. Do you take MemAid, Keeper, or ReCall?"

    "No... I'm a clean."

    "A real clean? You don't take any mindpills? What an odd way to live!"

  • You know... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Just because you're ignorant about psychoactive pharmaceuticals, doesn't mean you need to be afraid of them. That's a decidedly non-geek attitude to have about a technological advance. It's not the tools that are good or bad, it's how they are used.
    • It's not the tools that are good or bad, it's how they are used.

      But as every tool is going to be used by humans, practically speaking, then every tool will be used well and poorly. Can the proper use of this tool, most likely by some minority of users, counteract its improper use by many, and its diabolical use by some? And is its merely improper use, to say nothing of its diabolical use, so nightmarish that it far outweighs the benefits? Mankind has historically survived with violent and even psychotic individuals in its midst; 'curing' these does not seem a worthwhile goal if it carries with it the threat of such devolution (though certain psychotics might disagree--after all, they're the ones who have to live that way if uncured).

  • Very scary (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Chacham ( 981 )
    Over the course of the next decade, scientists may be able to predict, by examining a scan of a person's brain, not only whether he will tend to mental sickness or health, but also whether he will tend to depression or violence.

    And who defines "mental sickness". Many people consider religion mental illness. Certainly, it can be cured. Diciplining children, oh they must have violent tendencies. Defining marriage as something other than people of opposite gender, you must really be crazy.

    Knowing that people judge others' behaviour is scary enough. Giving them tools for manipulation, is very scary.

  • Anyone else notice the the first article being rather pushy? The author seems determined to make you "realize" that neroscience is equivalent to, if not worse than, genetic engineering.

    The author certainly has that opinion, and did well to represent it. But, it seems, that instead of presenting the idea for debate, it was considered to be a fact that noone else realized. The article seems a bit crazed.

    • Not only did I notice that, I also noticed that they give no source for the "love experiment"..
      if you're going to fearmonger, at least you should give sources and details (how many women, what percentage of them fell in love, what was the gender of the experimenters, did the control group also fall in love)..

      Why do these articles always miss the point that there already exist very effective, time-honored ways to control other people's minds and behavior - violence, FUD, propaganda..
      ah well, other people will post the same thing. Ready to be modded redundant.
  • Imagine implants that can transmit thoughts. We would be able to have the unique experience of arguing with someone who disagrees completely, and tapping into their thoughts. At a single moment we would be able to look at the issue from two sides, and have passionate feelings that each side is the correct one.

    I propose right now that we require all national presidents and diplomats to be fitted with these systems. We should start with the Israelis and Palestianians, and the Indians and Pakistanis first.
    • Perhaps, but is there a necessary physical link between having access to one's opinions and the ability to change them? If so, wouldn't this allow you to change someone else's opinions? Do we really want to pit Pres. Bush against Pres. Putin in a battle of the wills to decide which set of opinions will govern the planet?

      As it is, most people don't form their opinions based on rational evidence. I can bearly keep up with my own irrationality: I don't need someone else's craziness running through my head, as well.

    • I think your head might explode if something caused you to passionately believe in both sides of the a single argument. It would be like tiny Israelis and Palestinians in your head.
    • At a single moment we would be able to look at the issue from two sides,

      To go with Meyers-Briggs lingo, only Ps would care to do that. That is, to look at it from all sides and come to a conclusion. Js, don't care to see it from both sides, they just want to come to a conclusion.

      Further, only Ns would truly care about having an argument, and the Fs would not want to be argumentative. You'd be left NTPs and NTJs, most likely the Is.

      Thus, you're talking about a very few people who would actually care about this. But some INTPs may enjoy it, assuming that they'd *let* another person probe their thoughts.

      and have passionate feelings that each side is the correct one.

      Probably not. Again, only Ps would care, and they don't care neccessarily to come to make a judgement, but rather to understand the idea so well, that judgement wouldn't be neccesary. With that, there would be no passion. The Js may want that, but it's likely their minds would already be made up, and the other thought would still need to be processed. Both thoughts would not be appreciated equally, at the same time.

  • To think that all it takes is some electricity to make someone fall in love. Brings new meaning to the saying that you find someone's presence electrifying :) I bet the person who got struck by lightning 7 times [] is really in love with the world.
  • Why bother with the drug to combat shyness? We've had it around for years. It's called Alcohol!
  • I am quite happy that Slashdot readers/writers did not take the Economist Journalists' (Businessmen?) views all that seriously. I don't want to claim that there is no place for improvement. But such mind controlling implants were already used in research and to some extent monkeys and humans in the sixties and seventies. What's really new and not all that much revolutionary now is that the electronics is miniaturized to some extent - but it's one thing to resort to chronic electrode implants because nothing else seems to be able to desynchronize Parkinson's disease related tremor and another to ask for electrode arrays (even if they existed already) that could be used for cognitive enhancement! Please visit our site for some more balanced Science News and some background info. Quite a few of the research projects that you discussed here (following Press Releases) are presented there in a slightly different light - and also more informative in some sense than News articles even from Washington Post and New York Times Science and Technology section. Although I need to admit that some of the journalists do take the time to do some nice research in the field they write about. NeuroProsthesis News []

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