Do we create our thoughts?  If we create them, do we own them?  The United States Army is working on new “thought helmets” where “thought synthesis” between soldiers will be immediate an unspoken. 


If the military owns the soldier, does that also give them the right to control the free thinking of the individual?

Vocal
cords were overrated anyway
. A new Army grant aims to create email or
voice mail and send it by thought alone.

No need to type an e-mail,
dial a phone or even speak a word. Known as synthetic telepathy, the technology is based on reading electrical activity in the brain using an electroencephalograph, or EEG. Similar technology is being marketed as a way to control video games by thought.

If soldiers share thoughts — can they also silently receive covert commands from commanders in the field to act and behave by rote?

If this sounds insane, it would have been as recently as a few years ago. But improvements in computing power and a better understanding of how the brain works have scientists busy hunting for the distinctive neural fingerprints that flash through a brain when a person is talking to himself.

The Army’s initial goal is to capture those brain waves with incredibly sophisticated software that then translates the waves into audible radio messages for other troops in the field. “It’d be radio without a microphone, ” says Dr. Elmar Schmeisser, the Army neuroscientist overseeing the program. “Because soldiers are already trained to talk in clean, clear and formulaic ways, it would be a very small step to have them think that way.”

If a combat helmet can listen to thoughts, record them, and offer them to others for analysis and storage — how far away are we from requiring that civilian thoughts be filtered through the same authority?

Will we need to provide our everyday thoughts at border crossings?  Can the courts cross-examine our unspoken thinking?  Will we be persecuted for discoverable memories?

Will our thoughts be monitored from the sky, as the Panopticonic Eye becomes the Panopticonic Thought?

Can we be punished merely for thinking instead of acting?

12 Comments

  1. Well that’s too bad. You think about the technology and like it and see how it helps our soldiers. But the next step is what kills the excitement. It will be applied to the citizens, no doubt there.

  2. David,
    The military’s mission of reducing the bulk of its human resources to the functional level of robots continues.
    It will be interesting to see how this works out on the field.

  3. Oh yes!
    “Manchurian Candidate” it is!
    Thanks for the second link David – I didn’t know about it.
    It’s tough to pay heed to the abstract – unless it bites us.

  4. Hi Katha!
    The second link is a brand new TV show. It’s interesting. What makes a killer into a family man? A brain implant? Training? Coercion? What happens when the difference wears off and the moral man meets the cold killer — that’s the conflict of the series, and it is certainly fascinating to watch.

  5. Talk about Big Brother watching over you no matter what. Better keep all of your thoughts pure and wholesome because if you don’t, the government will know about it!