It's a recurring staple of science fiction, a fantasy straight out of the back pages of comic books and the last, most desperate wish of creepy would-be date rapists signing up for correspondence courses in hypnosis: It’s mind control. And it’s just about here.
There are three major stages needed for real life, applicable mind control: to know what somebody is thinking, to take hold of their memories and, finally, to manipulate their actions. Each of these things is pretty fundamentally violating on their own, but if you get all three together, it could spell the end of free will forever. So…you know science is on that shit!
The first step towards real life mind control is figuring out what the hell you’re thinking about in the first place. For most of you reading this right now, that’s probably something about boobs or Transformers or, if you’re a regular reader here: transforming boobs.
What do they transform into? MORE BOOBS!
However, some people are a bit more complicated than that. Like women, for example. They have both thoughts and emotions. I know! Crazy, right? How do you crack someone like that? Well, you break it down; to figure out the complicated human mind, you need to know how they think - what exactly makes them the person they are - and to know that, you need to know what they’ve seen, and what they remember.
That’s why researchers at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories set out to capture images directly from the human brain.
How? Well, when you look at something, your retinas relay the image as electrical signals to your visual cortex before you can even process said images consciously. The scientists simply used an MRI machine to monitor activity in the visual cortex and, along with insanely intricate mapping software, they successfully pulled images from their minds! They showed the test subjects six consecutive letters that spelled out the word "neuron" – the name of the magazine the study was being published in – and then, using their setup, they re-interpreted the data back into the readable letters as shown below.
Okay, so telepathy is 8-bit for now. Give it 20 years and it’ll be HD.
Because the visual cortex registers what you see, whether you realize it or not, this process also makes it possible to capture things you haven’t physically seen - like dreams or visualized imaginary scenarios – as well as things you can’t consciously recall seeing, or weren’t paying attention to - like forgotten memories or small details overlooked at the time.
So eventually, way down the line, this process could be used for anything visually based, from finding your lost keys, to recording your dreams for later examination. Why you would want to do the latter is anybody’s guess, seeing as how your dreams, if they’re anything like mine, are mostly just jumbled assortments of pop-culture idols gyrating erotically, while abstract representations of your deepest fears chase you through a hedge-maze, finally catching you because you can only run in slow motion while everything else moves in real time.
Like this, but with MacGyver's face. And sexy.
For the time being, they can only recreate crude images like the aforementioned letters, and even then only by painstakingly mapping brain activity recorded while you’re currently looking at something. So on the down side, even if it advanced remarkably, this specific technology could never tell somebody what you were thinking; it could only improve at telling them what you were picturing. But on the plus side, all those violent revenge fantasies you have - where people guilty of the slightest offense towards you are beaten to a pulp by your unerring fists, while all of your female friends and co-workers celebrate your impending victory by stripping off their business attire and engaging in exceptionally bouncy oil fights? Yeah, soon they’ll be able to totally watch that shit. Even record it! Where it will probably get you incredibly, irrevocably fired… or else promoted to the advertising department (depending on the marketability of the jiggles.)
Hint: extremely marketable.
While the Department of Dream Thievery up there may be ominous enough to feature as villains on Reading Rainbow, they’re not much of a threat as long as you don’t go around vividly picturing what dissidence would physically look like. For abstract thoughts such as disloyalty, intended violence or just thinking your boss is kind of a dick, the Dream Thieves can’t see jack. But that’s okay, there are whole other departments dedicated to solely to tapping into your thoughts, like the United States Army, for one!
Because hey, if there has to be a division of the government monitoring your thoughts, why not make it the armed one, with a penchant for breaking down individuality in order to instill a sense of complete obedience?
The army has recently renewed a $4 million contract with researchers at the Universities of California at Irvine, Carnegie Mellon and Maryland to do exactly that. Ostensibly, the aim of the project is developing a “thought communication” helmet that would relay troop’s commands and reports silently, but I’m not exactly Fox Mulder over here when I imply that maybe the “mind-reading helmet” will do a tad more than facilitate quiet chats when you put in the hands of the military industrial complex.
“I want to believe…that this shit isn’t true. Seriously, this is fucked.”
Right now, it’s just a helmet with 128 electrical sensors strategically placed around it. The sensors work as a kind of EEG, tuned to monitor the speech centers of the brain, so it would only pick up words, and even then only words you formed carefully, and held onto mentally. The researchers assure us that, for the time being, there’s no actual danger of it reading your mind against your will. You have to be specifically trained to operate the equipment in the first place, and even then, the communications would have to be very forceful, very simple and framed very carefully to be picked up at all.
“FUCK YOU. FUCK. YOU. F.U.C.K.Y.O.U.”
Though in time they trust that the communications will be relayed in your own voice, for now they’re played back via headphones with a robotic speech reader. It’s essentially like having a tiny robot living inside your brain that broadcasts your inner-most thoughts straight to the military – so it turns out that homeless guy outside the library that wears 17 alternating layers of flannel and saran wrap was totally right on this one!
Who’s stupid now, huh? Maybe next time you’ll listen when he tells you about how the aliens drink your piss at night to steal your emotions, smartass.
The final step toward mind control - now that they can steal your dreams and hear your thoughts - is the actual manipulation of said thoughts. Sure, the other steps are privacy invading, Orwellian nightmares-in-training, but at least even the most oppressive of dystopian novels tells us that the free will of man can always be stirred and inspired – it just has to be hidden at all costs, lest you find yourself banished to the Suppression Cube with a disloyal soldier, two socialists, a poet and a chronic masturbator.
But they don’t control you. That would be too alien, too supernatural, too fundamentally wrong, that would be… not too far off!
Neuroscientists at Arizona State University have recently been experimenting with the effects of ultrasound on human beings. Specifically, they wanted to see how ultrasound could remotely stimulate different types of brain circuit activity. And, in a completely unforeseen twist, they found out that ultrasound has absolutely no effect on the human brain, because nothing is capable of manipulating your thoughts. Free will is as invincible as it is awesome!
They learned how to remote control human beings.
The three guys on the left were told they're an orchestra, the guy on the floor was told he's a horse and the lady at the bottom was just told to "suck it."
It’s not very specific as of yet - just a vague stimulation of large areas of the brain - but there’s something they’ve been experimenting with for a while that delves a whole lot deeper: things like DBN (Deep Brain Stimulation) and VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulation), both of which are currently used and apparently effective new techniques implemented to battle things like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, clinical depression, bi-polar disorder, drug addiction – even stuttering. But those procedures are invasive. You have to undergo extremely dangerous neurosurgery, where doctors implant wires in various parts of your brain, which are in turn connected to a battery that sits inside your chest. The battery then emits periodic jolts of electricity to the brain, with different thresholds, timing and placement depending on what condition the patient suffers from, and how intense the symptoms are. The results have been astounding so far, with long-suffering patients seeing instant, complete and lasting recovery in some cases. They describe it “like flicking a switch,” and then all of their symptoms are gone.
Now, with this ultrasound breakthrough, the potential is there to see similar effects with targeted sound waves. As the researchers themselves explain it “one prior stumbling block was the skull,” but luckily they found that “the acoustic frequencies can penetrate bone, and yet prevent damage to the soft tissues.” And there’s your first hint that this shit is insanely scary – when the researchers in question describe the human skull as a “stumbling block” to be “penetrated through.”
“If we could just get rid of this fucking thing…”
When you consider that one person’s “personality disorder,” could easily be another’s “general dislike of government policy” or even just a “lack of willingness” to work without pay on Christmas, the implications get pretty ominous. So, scientists will soon be able to fire skull-penetrating sound waves into your head to change your mood and personality. But will they? Surely this is merely for study, not for common civilian uses. That would be an ethics violation of the highest order, and no scientist working on this technology would ever suggest such a thing, right?
Actually, as lead researcher Professor Tyler puts it, “the potential applications could range from medical interventions,” like firing a sound gun at you that makes you quit drinking, to “video game uses,” like …what? Really making you feel what emotional states your space marines are going through?
The emotional range of a Space Marine: from "Fuck Yeah!" to "High Five!"
He even goes on to say it could even be used to create “artificial memories along the lines of Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in Total Recall." Imagine taking a vacation without actually going anywhere!”
That’s an actual quote from the actual guy that’s actually doing this, by the way.
He thinks that Total Recall was a good idea.
I guess he missed the part of that movie where it was revealed that the technology in question was either making a man betray himself in order to enforce the will of a corrupt corporation that literally suffocated the poor, or else it was all the deluded fantasy of said man as he died from an embolism, trapped forever in the artificial dreams as his life ebbed away.
If they’re really trying to introduce mind control technology as something good and harmless for use in civilian applications - maybe they should avoid citing their inspirations as being directly drawn from villainous science fiction plots regarding hopeless dystopian futures populated by mutants and exploding heads.
“Let’s make this shit happen.” –Science
Although, there was a girl with three titties in that movie…
Nevermind, science. I see where you’re going with this. Keep up the good work!
You can read more from Robert at his own site, I Fight Robots, but that's really your choice. Enjoy it while it lasts.