Brain fingerprinting
February 18, 2004 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Brain fingerprinting is about to take centre stage in a last-chance court appeal against a death-row conviction in the US." The technology was developed by Dr. Lawrence Farwell, one of Time Magazine's "100 Innovators who may be the Picassos or Einsteins of the 21st century." Is this a positive development for humankind (after all, it may clear innocent accused of their alleged crimes, or uncover dangerous terrorists), or is it yet another scary advancement in the government's encroachment on our privacy ? I personally think Philip K. Dick, author of "Minority Report" may have been more of a prophet than we ever knew. (See this link as well).
posted by F4B2 (10 comments total)
Yeah! 21st century polygraph!
posted by UlfMagnet at 8:06 PM on February 18, 2004

Whoa. I had never heard of this stuff before today. Great post... obviously I'm wary of the idea that the technique is 100% infallible; I wonder how much testing they did on people who were consciously trying to game the system. Is what they're measuring physiologically impossible to self-control, as they claim, or not?
posted by logovisual at 8:14 PM on February 18, 2004

Phil K. Dick more of a prophet than WHO ever knew?

Meanwhile, I think this post is funny for the fact that I read the linked article and saved it under this exact label - "Brain Fingerprinting"......
posted by troutfishing at 8:15 PM on February 18, 2004

What is the unwritten rule that something like this *has* to be used to convict or acquit?

In other words, while it may be haphazard as a tool for proving someone guilty or innocent, perhaps it could be a *non-judicial* appeal. Non-judicial because it would be beyond the reach of ambitious prosecutors and reckless judges. Like lie detectors, not admissible in court, but still useful.

Anyone convicted of a capital crime would be wired in, and even though their conviction might never be overturned, a difficult thing to do, they might not have to wait for ten years on death row.
posted by kablam at 7:52 PM on February 19, 2004

I saw a film about this technology a few years ago. It is amazing stuff. They show the subjects a lot of random pictures of parking lots + the one parking lot where the murder was done, and the killer's brain just spikes at the crime scene photo.
posted by crunchburger at 8:14 PM on February 19, 2004

Crunchburger, did they talk about "pollution" or similar terms? For instance, if someone is accused and sits through their own trial, where evidence against them is presented...wouldn't it make sense that they would then have the evidence in their head, even if they didn't have it before the trial?

This machine just strikes me as kinda spooky. Makes me feel all empathetic towards the Luddites and such.
posted by dejah420 at 9:01 PM on February 19, 2004

This thing scares me.
posted by mosch at 9:24 PM on February 19, 2004

For a fascinating science fiction book on the notion of the perfect lie detector, try The Truth Machine.
posted by Goofyy at 9:26 PM on February 19, 2004

They show the subjects a lot of random pictures of parking lots + the one parking lot where the murder was done, and the killer's brain just spikes at the crime scene photo.

The obvious dodge is to kill people in a whole range of parking lots. You know, if you're going to kill somebody anyway.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:09 AM on February 20, 2004

Just a few quotes from other sites regarding brain fingerprinting:

Emanuel Donchin, M.D., chair of the department of psychology at the University of South Florida argues that the science behind the method is not the problem. Instead, the specific questions posed to the suspect are problematic. He argues that “the success of the technique depends on the construction of the stimuli and there is no analytic, systematic way of constructing the question. It depends on the subjectivity of the person. It’s an art, not a science.” - Berkeley medical journal

Also, one cannot "drag suspects in" to test them because it is physically impossible to test someone who resists the test.

This one cracks me up:
Dr. Farwell suggests use of the term "Orwellian" is misplaced since Orwell's 1984 described a society in which innocent people were constantly in fear of an extremely controlling government that did not value the truth. I say - take a look around you old chap.

- both of the above are from Forensic Evidence
posted by FidelDonson at 1:49 AM on February 20, 2004

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