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Op-Ed: Invasion of the mind — A machine that can scan dreams?

By Paul Wallis     May 19, 2014 in Technology
Berkeley - Could it be that the “surveillance society” has gone a bit further overboard than anyone realizes? A new machine is claimed to be able to scan dreams. It can in fact reconstruct faces, if people think of them.
As brand new obscenities go, this is a new level. It’s a real shot at the Thought Police on roller skates. Why is a machine like this even considered useful, let alone necessary? The possibilities for abuse of human rights are almost endless.
The Daily Mail:
Scientists have created a machine with the potential to read our dreams while we sleep.
Researchers in the US say it is so powerful that it can extract images from people’s brains and display them on a screen.
The data from the brain scanner has already been used to detect and reconstruct images of faces that people are thinking of.
Researchers believe the same technology could be used in the future to enable them to reconstruct images from people’s memories, imagination and dreams.
The hell you say? Yep. This is invasion of the mind, courtesy of a society that can’t even be trusted to get basic accountancy right.
There’s also a bit of mechanics here which seems mystical but is basically calibration, just reading responses to stimuli:
Six volunteers were shown 300 faces while they laid inside an MRI scanner.
Scientists were then able to analyse how their brains responded to dozens of different facial features including blond hair and blue eyes to dark skin and beards.
…It could also possibly be used to collect images of criminals from the minds of witnesses.
Alan Cowen, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, said: ‘Our methods yield strikingly accurate neural reconstructions of faces.
Well, thanks, UC, nice to know civil liberties are at the forefront of academic naiveté. This thing is a weapon which could be used against humanity. Again, academia blunders on mindlessly, giving Paranoia Central more tools.
Why do scientists persist in conducting such obviously abuse-able research? Idealism? Stupidity? Combination of both? There's already technology which can see memories being made. How much further is this research going to go?
The research is based on a theory that all human processes have a ‘neural correlate’ and that thoughts and feelings are merely a complex pattern of chemical reactions.
Was that a Freudian slip or a full set of lingerie?
If you’re detecting the distinct stench of devaluing human experience, reducing it to the lowest possible common denominator, and then simply “testing the lab rats,” that may not be the intention. Even the endlessly furtive, often corrupt world of academic excellence does have ideas, it usually expresses them very badly.
Sadly, the less rational world of “hate the humans,” as expressed in social policies, economics, infrastructure, health, housing, and education, happens to see the public that way- Just a collection of chemical processes. Trust us, we’re researchers… So was Mengele.
The good news is that this Holocaust in a Box requires a lot of infrastructure. It requires MRI scans, and the whole supply chain of a complex system. The new atrocity isn’t yet portable.
Invasion of the mind
While this thing, under strict controls, may be able to achieve significant benefits in dealing with actual mental problems, the prognosis for this kind of power over others isn’t good.
The Psychological Revolution, in which even blushing is considered a mental disorder according to the Holy Book of Psych Fee Schedules, and even psychologists are beginning to rebel against the regime of diagnosis and pharmaceutical abominations, hasn’t been a glowing testimony to trusting others with what goes on inside your mind. Nor is a case I covered recently regarding a woman misdiagnosed with schizophrenia for 30 years. This isn't rocket science, in fact as science, it's pure crap, in many ways.
Does anyone want a collection of self-righteous, infallible occasional nutcases digging around in their heads, extracting information, and then using it as they feel like using it?
Where are the safeguards?
What sort of accountability for responsibility for information is envisaged?
What sort of security would this data have against hackers?
Do seriously disadvantaged people with mental disorders have any kind of comeback, real or notional, against such intrusions? Aren’t the real mental disorders bad enough?
Could this thing feed information in to a brain, like constructing false memories? Cut and paste images in the brain? Maybe not, but it’s now on the cards. If people can read images, they can probably “write” them.
A digression- The sophistry of arguments for intrusive research
There’s a set piece sophomoric rehearsed argument in favor of any kind of research:
Sophistry #1: Well, you allow your doctor to take tests, and they could be abused, so what’s the difference?
Answer 1: The difference is that I know why those tests are being taken, and they can’t really be used against me.
Answer 2: The difference is that if my doctor abuses the information I provide, I can shoot him.
Sophistry #2: This technology could have great potential for medical advances.
Answer 1: Theory and practice are never the same things. Nuclear power was said to have great potential, and resulted in Chernobyl, Fukushima, and nuclear waste getting spread all over the world.
Answer 2: There’s always a backlash in the health sector against the public with new technologies. We’ve been having “great medical advances” for decades now, and the result is global pandemics and genetic information which can make you uninsurable.
Meanwhile, back on topic
To say that “medical research”, particularly in the US, is now roughly the equivalent of pedophilia is only just a slight overstatement. The ability of Big Pharma-worshipping, peasant sycophants to carry out research on human beings and market toxic products in their thousands already leaves a lot to be desired. This is potentially a lot worse.
There’s a need for statutory coverage to prevent any form of abuse of this type of procedure ever getting a foothold. Absolute transparency and full accountability are the only options.
One way of killing off the mercenary incentives for this potentially mind-molesting technology is to declare that there is nothing patentable in it. The mere ability to correlate physical reactions isn’t an invention. It’s snooping. MRI is a coverall patent.
Meanwhile, unless there’s some sudden, drastic, credibility added to this research, it’s a threat to privacy and individual rights. There’s no basis for trust. Academia sold out, long ago, to the dollar based pheromones of big business.
If UC wants its reputation intact, back this up with some safeguards and at least address these issues and don't just talk about a great set of numbers like some collection of business gerbils. Berkeley was the great innovator of American academia in the past. Now you have to ask which side they're on?
That’s one “correlate” that’s likely to do more than paint a few pretty pictures on an MRI scan.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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