Paging Philip K. Dick
February 11, 2003 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Brain fingerprinting seems to have nothing to do with fingerprinting, but it's still ominous, a step toward a lot of sci-fi dystopias. Don't worry, they'll only use this against criminals and terrorists *cough*
posted by soyjoy (10 comments total)
I have to say this is cool.
The more we understand about the brain, the more likely we are to unravel the mysteries of conciousness and intelligence.

The possible civil rights abuses that this could lead to is worrisome, of course, but not much more than the traditional lie detector.

Scientists are often tempted to capitalize on the more speculative aspects of their work. I do not think we would be reading about this research if Farwell had not seen the possibility of applying his research to forensics.
posted by spazzm at 11:21 AM on February 11, 2003

The possible civil rights abuses that this could lead to is worrisome, of course, but not much more than the traditional lie detector.

No - it is more so, because a lie detector requires a certain amount of cooperation to work. Here there's no Q & A, just visual stimulus that you involuntarily react to. And as for that "you could just close your eyes" notion, I say, yeah, right.
posted by soyjoy at 11:37 AM on February 11, 2003

"Demonstrate it. I want to see it work."
posted by raygirvan at 11:49 AM on February 11, 2003

That leads us to the whole subject of whether an suspected and/or charged person would have the right to refuse the test. Will it become something that's automatically done when one is charged, like fingerprinting?

It's a whole new realm, isn't it. But there's much to be decided - like how accurate this thing is, and then how best to use it, or if it's ethical to use it in which cases, or at all.
posted by orange swan at 11:51 AM on February 11, 2003

There's nothing worse than the embarassment of walking around with that indeliable ink on your prefrontal lobe all day.
posted by Samsonov14 at 1:00 PM on February 11, 2003

Here's a previous thread on the ethics of brain science.
posted by homunculus at 1:09 PM on February 11, 2003

homonculus - thanks. Good to see Philip K. Dick [title] mentioned on your thread as well.

Great minds think alike - and if they don't, we can force 'em to!!!
posted by soyjoy at 1:22 PM on February 11, 2003

Isn't this forcing the person to testify against themselves? I can't imagine anyone, guilty or innocent willingly submitting to one of these tests in a court of law.
posted by wobh at 1:33 PM on February 11, 2003

The relevant section of the fifth amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. Any constitutional scholars here on MeFi who have studied the intent of this clause? I've heard the argument that this was intended to prevent the attendant coercion - i.e., torture - that would be used to extract such testimony more than the testimony itself. In other words, if the framers had possessed a device that was a truly fool proof, 100% accurate lie detector which functioned in a relatively noninvasive fashion, would they still have included this provision in the fifth amendment?

Of course, it is the "truly fool proof, 100% accurate" part that is tricky - and it should also have procedural safeguards against abuse - but if those conditions are met, I'll toss out the argument: Why shouldn't it be used?
posted by John Smallberries at 2:10 PM on February 11, 2003

I might be mistaken, but I believe it's not necessary for the subject to actually answer the questions to get a reading from a traditional lie detector - the subjects physical response to the questions are just as telling.

But nevertheless, new technology always carries the possibility of abuse and there's something about machines being able to read our minds that trigger deep seated fears in us.
posted by spazzm at 6:33 PM on February 11, 2003

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