Category Archives: privacy

The Helmet of Truth v the Thinking Cap

Trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been around a while now. I suggested one of the future social problems we’d have to deal with is electronic drugs, where different parts of the brain are either effectively switched off or stimulated while drugs in smart release capsules can be ingested in advance by the clubbers but stay inactive until commanded remotely by a club DJ.

Similar technology is used in the Helmet of Truth. Although in a somewhat murky area of international law, it is used to get captives to tell the truth, just like a truth serum, but by deactivating parts of the brain by rapidly changing magnetic fields instead of chemicals. The magnetic fields needed for this are very high, but graphene is a superb electrical conductor, so lends itself well to making powerful electromagnets. Combining fields from phased arrays allows currents to be stimulated at specific locations deep in the brain. Electrically stimulating specific regions in the brain can cause memories to be stimulated involuntarily. Since thoughts can already be detected with sufficient accuracy to tell what video a person is thinking about, this could be used to scan a subject’s memory for secrets. As it progresses, though recognition will be capable of recognising a wide range of thoughts and emotions. Coupling this to TMS and phased array technology therefore provides the basis of a painless but effective interrogation process, albeit one of dubious morality.

Should anyone¬†use such a tool? Under what circumstances? Under what jurisdiction and supervision, with what safeguards? I’d feel quite uneasy about letting hem have this, but it won’t be my choice.

It does have a more positive side though. TMS is already being researched and used for medical treatments, and also to increase the learning capacity, and improve concentration. If it can be used to scan the memory to replay memories, hence refreshing them, then it could be a valuable learning tool that keeps learned knowledge from being forgotten so badly. Wasn’t it Edward de Bono who proposed the thinking cap? I guess this would fill that role nicely.