locking up political prisoners, dictators simply alter their brains, so that
they no longer want to fight -- and even accept the ideology of the rulers.
The methods used will be a lot cleaner than from George Orwell's 1984 --
no torture or screaming; just some brain stimulation, maybe, accompanied by the
right sensory input. Private individuals wealthy enough to afford their own
security force (and protection from international law enforcement through
bribery and other means), might also give it whirl. Just think about what
they might do:
Perhaps you saw this article from a year or two ago:
In the study, published on Monday in Nature Human Behavior, a team
of McGill University and Montreal Neurological Institute scientists showed
that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) — a form of therapy that sends
magnetic pulses through the brain to stimulate or disrupt certain regions —
can actually shift a person’s taste in music.
With a better stimulation device than that blunt tool, TMS, and with the right
priming (feed people music while stimulating and inhibiting parts of their
brain), you could probably make long-lasting and very subtle changes to their
music preferences. And if you can do that, what else might you be able
Perhaps you can reduce racism? Yes, that has been tried (using the much tDCS,
which I am skeptical of):
Again, I wouldn't be surprised if it could be made to work really well, given a
sufficiently advanced device. And if you can reduce it, you can probably also
increase it -- a useful ability for a dictator to have, wouldn't you say?
Might it be possible to alter people's personality? Again, there is some
evidence for it, though it has only been attempted for people with personality
disorders, perhaps due to the ethical problems it invites. There is also
evidence that certain types of empathy can be altered through brain-stimulation,
and in particular, to enhance empathetic responses in people with autism spectrum
Of course, dictators would probably be more interested in decreasing empathy.
That, too, is probably possible -- perhaps even easier. Neuroskeptic asked
a related question:
Elective ‘psychopathy’: Suppose a neurosurgeon devised an operation
which was able to eliminate emotions such as regret, and guilt, by removing or
modifying part of the brain. In other words, this procedure would turn you into
something like the stereotypical/Hollywood ‘psychopath’. I’m sure there are some
people who would willingly have this operation.
The dictator salivates!
Might it be possible to alter people's sexual preferences? No evidence for that
yet, and the ethical problems for such experiments would be even deeper than many
others I have listed. Nonetheless, there is evidence that sexual preference can
be altered if you allow brain injury; and there are experiments in altering sexual
orientation in mice.
Probably this, too, can be tweaked and manipulated using brain stimulation.
I could imagine a cyberpunk scenario some time in the coming decades, where a
very rich, and very twisted mob boss, oligarch, or dictator, kidnaps their
favorite actress (like North Korean leaders have done), and installs them into a
machine, to transform them into a willing sex slave. Maybe it would involve
presenting videos and images of the mafioso as the brain is stimulated and
inhibited in just the right way. Very delicate work. And when they are finally
saved by a rescue team, they will say, "Leave me the *^$#@ alone! I want
to be here. This is who I am now." The rescue team looks at each other
in befuddlement. (Would it be ethical to change the person back?)
So many dark possibilities. It's hard to imagine at least one of them won't be
tried at some point, by somebody, somewhere