Tuesday, December 08, 2009

thoughtcrime?

From the An American Studies archives:
In New York City a billboard emits highly focused sound that resonates within the skulls of passersby. It’s a novel way of advertising, a potentially terrifying intrusion and, according to technology writer Clive Thompson, the leading edge of a new civil rights battleground – the right to privacy in your own mind.


Have you seen Minority Report? Do you remember the scene in the mall when Tom Cruise's character is bombarded with advertising messages inside his own head?

If intrusive ads don't seem that worrisome to you, consider this: there are scientists currently working on a device that shines an infrared beam on your forehead, a sort of remote MRI, that can "read" your mind to determine if you are in "mental anguish". What this means, for example, is that before we tell a lie, a simple brain scan can reveal it. Imagine the antiterrorist uses for this at airports.

What do you think about any/all of these issues? For more information, listen to this excerpt from NPR's On the Media, which is the source of today's post:

15 comments:

Ruchi said...

Hearing about this kind of future technology always freaks me out, to be honest. Even imagining somebody having the power to search the single most intimate thing that you have, your mind, is a really scary concept. I really don't believe that a "future crime" is a crime at all. Thinking about doing something isn't the same as carrying out the action; it's not even on the same level as voicing that thought. We are constitutionally allowed the right of freedom of speech, obviously granting that we be able to hold our own personal beliefs as well. Limiting the freedom to think is the most incredible limit of civil liberties there could be; everyone questions their leaders and sometimes even themselves. In my opinion, asking questions is undoubtedly the most healthy and progressive way to approach a situation. I'm not talking about hijacking planes, I only mean questioning those in power and being an active member of society. I can definitely see this kind of mind-reading technology being applied in "measuring patriotism" among citizens during perilous times, but what kind of nation would we be if we penalized our citizens for questioning their government, especially only in their own thoughts?

Andy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy said...

All of this is so creepy to me. I think that alot of the potential uses for this technology Clive Thompson mentioned sound pretty amazing. But having a message played in my head against my will does not sound appealing. I agree that this form of advertisement could end up backfiring. At first people will be too overwhelmed by the new technology to focus on the message, soon after that people will find it a massive annoyance. Honestly, I am shocked that this kind of advertisement exists. It still seems incredibly "Sci fi" to me. There's definitely going to be some public outrage. I wonder what the legal response to this invasion of the "civil rights of the mind" will be. Having said all that, I'm excited to see what kinds of developments emerge in this field of technology.

Caroline C said...

The interception of "mental anguish" is shocking to me, I can't even imagine such sophisticated technology! Mr. Bolos brings up a good point about the use of this on antiterrorists in the airports. I think it would be a good safety precaution to question the people who scan that they are in "mental anguish". I really liked Ruchi's point that said questioning is the best way to approach this. I totally agree with her. I also wonder if people would be arrested for the future crime that was spotted in their head. I think it would be best to question these people and put them into jail for a while to keep an eye out for them. However, I think reading people's mind with this super smart technology is way too intrusive of one's privacy. Even though it could prevent future terrorist attacks, I think this would be going too far.

Lizzy said...

I agree with Andy and Ruchi that this is all very creepy. However, I would think that whomever is creating these new, invasive technologies is either at just as much risk from them, or has some way of blocking them. This said, regulations on the new "mind readers" would probably ensue. I have faith that we could police ourselves on this one and that we would not let a new technology negatively take over our lives.

Anna H. said...

I feel very uncomfortable with the thought that others can literally read my mind. A persons thoughts are completely personal and I don't think they should ever be invaded. Although at this very moment we may not have the technology to have other's thoughts printed out on paper for everyone to read, I feel that this is where we are heading and it scares my deeply.
I really believe that its not what a person thoughts that defines them, its how a person acts and reacts to the thoughts they are having. If people are judging us on our undeveloped thoughts then we will never have an opportunity to prove them wrong.

BFlan said...

I agree with the general consensus of the class so far, these are scary thoughts. While I debated in my mind whether previous issues were infringements of civil liberties, I have no doubt in my mind about these. There should be no way this new technology becomes a part of our lives. This could lead to bigger things and the next thing we know we wont be thinking for ourselves. It is one thing to a judge a person's actions, but it is just going to far to judge their thoughts.

Sam H said...

I can never seem to make up my mind on these issues. Technically speaking, If you don't know that you are being scanned, then you are not hurt in any way.

We have to think about where the idea of no search and seizure without probable cause came from. It came from the British government's attacks on the homes and property of revolutionaries and enemies of the government. The ideas about search and seizure were put into the constitution at a time when technology was in a totally different place. Now, we can determine if someone is lying (then question them further) without hurting them or their property.

To me it seems like the second amendment argument. People are taking it out of context. The second amendment was written at a time when the US was a frontier. People needed guns to protect themselves. Now people need guns to compensate for Freudian phallic anxiety.

I guess what I'm saying is that I am taking the unpopular stance for this. I have no problem with it.

Claire m said...

I found myself very interested in what Andy said about the civil liberties of invading minds. As this particular science develops, I wonder if the right to "freedom of thought" would be added to the first amendment.

Any person has the right to their own thoughts, in my opinion, because like Ruchi said, "thinking about doing something isn't the same as carrying out the action". As such I feel it wouldn't be just for a person to be accused of a precrime like in Minority Report. However the middleground of this situation seems somewhat more justified. An example would be only scanning people who already have evidence of planning a terrorist attack against them.

Zoe C. said...

The whole idea of seeing advertisements inside your head really freaks me out. To me, this is a complete invasion of privacy, it's almost like brainwashing. Not that this has happened yet, but just the idea of it ever happening, scares me. However, the technology that you mentioned was being tested by scientists to see if your brain is in mental anguish, definitely seems possible and probable. This still kind of bothers me, but it is not as scary as seeing advertisements in your head. I can see how this type of technology can be useful when it comes to picking out terrorists in airports, but if the technology leaves that environment, I think things could get scary, and fast.

Ellie said...

I think what Claire said about the "freedom of thought" was really interesting. Thought is the only thing that we have that is completely to ourselves (as of now at least). Speech, actions and literature are all displayed to the public, but thought is kept in the safety of you own mind. If you take the privacy of thought away, people will lose a sense of individuality. If everyone can hear what everyone else is thinking, nothing is left for the individual to have to feel different.

This reminds me of the searches from the Cold War Executive Order #9835. Truman made it legal to search any government employee's past. I think this order is extremely unjust. If people gain access to our thoughts the world will be like the time of
Executive Order #9835 and we will live in a world of fear.

nathans said...

I am as pro-constitution as they come and I see no problem with this. Albeit, there will undoubtedly be some mishaps where they pickup someone that has done nothing. But the only thing that could make me say this is intrusive is the effect it has on the innocent people. The fact is that this is not invasive at all and unless you really look for it you will have no idea you are being searched. I am also for this because I think the security at the airport is mediocre at best so if they can implement something that is hardly intrusive and can prevent another attack of some kind I am all for it.

Madelaine C said...

I cannot think of anything more frightening than the ability for someone else to read my mind. The government has absolutely no right to read people's mind.
In today's world, it is harder and harder to keep our lives private. A person's thoughts are really the only thing we have anymore that is 100% private, and now even that is being threatened. I will admit that this new device certainly could do some good in capturing criminals but it is inevitable that the device would be used int he wrong ways. People should be able to think whatever they want with out worrying that they may be prosecuted for it.

Odysseus said...

Holy heck! That is very creepy!

cece said...

If we know about this (future) technology it is because it is already here . This is pretty real and ready to officially put it in practice.
If it is a federal crime to read someone's mail (only federals can do it) what kind of crime would it be to read someone's mind? If they can get into somebody's house and arrest people only if they think they are "illegals" or terrorists, will that happen to us if we think differently than our government? To those that are "all for it", remember it can happen to you, too.
This is better than the idea of slavery. You don't have the right to think differently.

The Vatican must be celebrating it, because now Catholics will save a lot of confession time by passing through a scanner.