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The dark potential to change people's minds... permanently.

neuroscience psychology BCIs

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10 replies to this topic

#1
starspawn0

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In the not too distant future, I can imagine a scenario where, rather than
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:

https://www.inverse....in-manipulation
 

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
to do?

Perhaps you can reduce racism? Yes, that has been tried (using the much tDCS,
which I am skeptical of):

https://www.scienced...935861X15009274

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
disorders.

Of course, dictators would probably be more interested in decreasing empathy.
That, too, is probably possible -- perhaps even easier. Neuroskeptic asked
a related question:

http://blogs.discove...s-neuroscience/
 

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
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#2
tomasth

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Can this happan as a side effect of some mere BCI read usage ?

A game intended for entertainment end up with subtlety changing player , not necessarily tward the game company goals , side effects that can be anything.

Its harder to have an intended effect then accidental one. Like the alignment problem but for BCi side effects.

One day we are using BCI for productive mundane stuff , and the next eveeyone is becoming obsessed with paperclip making.
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#3
funkervogt

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Brain surgery could also be used to alter people's personalities to make them more agreeable, compliant, or dumber. A dictatorship would probably prefer those traits in its populace. 

 

http://www.bbc.com/f...rom-bad-to-good


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#4
starspawn0

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Those would, indeed, be desirable to dictators for the general populace. However, if they want to create a fearless and absolutely lethal army, other modifications might be more desirable.

#5
tomasth

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Everyone would have a minder in the cloud that monitor their brain and issue the right modification for the occasion , 'military grade' would have a new meaning (the one starspawn0 stated).

 

So if i visit north Korea they connect me to their minder , instead of a human minder they have today.

 

It will revolutionize passports and border security. (and businesses ? preventing cooperate espionage ?)



#6
funkervogt

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Those would, indeed, be desirable to dictators for the general populace. However, if they want to create a fearless and absolutely lethal army, other modifications might be more desirable.

The dictatorship would probably create different strains of citizens for different functions, like in Brave New World. This could be accomplished through genetic engineering, selective breeding, and direct brain modification. 



#7
Yuli Ban

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Those would, indeed, be desirable to dictators for the general populace. However, if they want to create a fearless and absolutely lethal army, other modifications might be more desirable.

The dictatorship would probably create different strains of citizens for different functions, like in Brave New World. This could be accomplished through genetic engineering, selective breeding, and direct brain modification.

What are those functions?

I don't mean to plug my own works into unrelated discussions, but this is something I faced when brainstorming sketches for Babylon Today and even directly reference:

Much has been written over the ages about the possibility of the wealthy branching off into a genetically perfect elite species of human while the underclass remains as is or even devolves into a more controllable race (as seen in The Time Machine between the Eloi and Morlocks as well as the castes in Brave New World). In a manner, one could say this has happened thanks to the speciation between Super Sapiens, Aryans, Sapiens, Neanderthals, and Habilis. However, as Dr. Ziegler notes, this genetic dystopia was tempered by the cornucopia of other technologies— indeed, most Aryans and Super Sapiens feel great angst because they are cast as genetically and intellectually superior and the peak of biology in an age where biology has been utterly trumped. This drove Dr. Ziegler's brother, Anton, towards becoming entirely post-biological. 
That aforementioned ultranationalist told Meki that he was a "masculinist-primitivist" for this reason— the prevalent feeling among ultranationalists in the post-third-curve era is that tradition and digital industry are mutually incompatible and class distinctions (necessary for a "proper" traditionalist society) are impossible to maintain in a world where artificial intelligence, automation, and high-industry are widespread. That dystopian desire for multiple human species structured in a rigid hierarchy of species, race, and class was preemptively defeated by automation. Modern new-humans and designer babies are largely unnecessary outside of the novelty of existing. The working class has no purpose— machines do the work, and they do it much more efficiently. The business class has no purpose— the machines do business, and they do it much better. The intellectual class has no purpose— the machines can think, and they do it infinitely faster. The warrior class has no purpose— the machines can fight, and they do it with greater force. The ruling class has no purpose— the machines now rule, and they are far superior to biology.

 

The idea in the story itself is that technology isn't hundreds of disconnected branches developing individually but more like a web where tentacles of hyphae spread out, thicken into each other, and merge again. There are roots, such as fire and electricity and digital computers and whatnot, and they can spin into new branches that become new roots. Some branches of technology absolutely require others to form first. In this case: genetic engineering. For pure entertainment, there's no point worrying about how to make it work: just write a good story. If you're trying to create factual predictions, however, there's absolutely no chance that we will create genetic superhumans without massive strides forward in artificial intelligence— we couldn't even decipher the human genome in a reasonable amount of time without sufficiently powerful computers (and we still technically haven't covered all the gaps as of today). And by the time we do create those superhumans, they'll have no purpose in society that AI cannot already accomplish at a superior level. They'll be novelties at best unless they're brought about in an ultranationalist, ultratraditionalist, ultrafundamentalist technophobic nation.


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And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#8
funkervogt

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What are those functions?

Off the cuff, I can think of four basic roles in society along with useful traits for each:

 

1) Leadership (of government, commerce, and military) 

-High IQ

-Creative

 

2) Laborers

-Normal IQ

-Obedient 

-Conformist 

-Low aggression

 

3) Warriors

-Normal IQ

-Physical strength, size and endurance

-High aggression 



#9
BlazingRocket

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What are those functions?

Off the cuff, I can think of four basic roles in society along with useful traits for each:

 

1) Leadership (of government, commerce, and military) 

-High IQ

-Creative

 

2) Laborers

-Normal IQ

-Obedient 

-Conformist 

-Low aggression

 

3) Warriors

-Normal IQ

-Physical strength, size and endurance

-High aggression 

 

I like this new "caste" system that is possible in this probable future. However, I would imagine that in a society in which they would be willing to alter people's minds permanently, they would also be willing to use robotic soldiers/weaponry (ex. tiny nanobots that inject toxins into enemies). Thus, I would personally argue that the "warrior" caste would not exist. The one assumption I am making is that robotic weaponry/soldiers will be scientifically feasible by the time such a society emerges.


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#10
Casey

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When it comes to technology that is a doubled-edged sword, I'm almost always the 'glass half-full' type that thinks we should go full steam ahead because the benefits count for more in my mind than the drawbacks. These Dystopian scenarios do nothing to make me experience any kind of fear or worry, but instead make me glad that we'll soon reach the point where we understand the brain well enough to have control over it - to have better treatments for things like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic symptoms, anhedonia, self-esteem issues, and so on.

 

Ultimately, having little control over the mind is far scarier to me than having significant control (or even absolute mastery) of it. Stagnation and the status quo is infinitely scarier to me than the idea of progressing too quickly and having more power than we know what to do with.


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#11
starspawn0

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There is also a kind of hidden horror in the OP, besides dictators; and that is the fact that our identities are alterable.
 
People like to think there is something sacred and inviolable about the "human spirit", that we can't be transformed into something else at the flip of a switch.  But evidence shows this belief is wrong... so very, very wrong.  
 
It is worrying, in a way -- the kind of thing that especially sends shivers down the spines of conservatives.  Think about how easily privilege and status can be removed; and, in the future, how easily it might be transferred to someone "undeserving".  Press a button, and you are not you, anymore.
 
Addendum:  I should point out that I've always been disturbed by The Island of Doctor Moreau. The first movie version I saw of the tale left me disturbed for months. I now realize it's actually not that far-fetched. Humans really can be transformed into something else.

More modern versions include the film Tusk, and The Human Centipede. Though, these don't describe transformation of the underlying self / spirit / soul.
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