“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom“, as He used to say. And truly, Mindhacks published a disturbing note, involving so many profound and complex questions, and the saddest thing is that it seems society will not only be incapable to understand much less correctly judge its implications until long after they are in full effect.
By now you must probably be aware of decades-old research on brain activity and free-will, pointing that our decision-making process is certainly different from the concept of an immaterial puff-puff white cloud making the choices and somehow transmitting those to a mostly useless gray matter inside our heads. In fact, unconscious processes on that brain anticipate the conscious perception of a decision, suggesting that the decision emerges from activities on that gray matter about which that imaginary puff-puff cloud called consciousness never becomes aware of.
Such cerebral activity was originally measured in EEG scans, being confirmed as years passed by and having been recently confirmed even in fMRI scans. This more recent study suggests that unconscious cerebral activity may anticipate a conscious choice on up to seven seconds . That may seem bizarre, but only if you are stuck into that puff-puff cloud concept.
If you rather realize that it’s only natural that our decisions come from many processes in our minds combining memory, reasoning, emotion and even some randomness, otherwise called creativity or “free will”, then those scientific findings are no big surprise.
Now, remember DARPA, which created among other things this sacred Internet. It has funded for years many projects trying to create better man-machine interfaces, and those include brain activity scanners, which may eventually allow one to pilot an airplane just by sheer “mind power”, for instance. Remotely. Combine that with the abolition of the puff-puff cloud concept, and you may be very scared.
The external control of an object may be accomplished in part or as a whole by reading unconscious brain activity. They may not even be “unconscious thoughts”, as they could be distant from what we would consider a “full thought”. Those unconscious cerebral functions may anticipate decisions that may never have been actually “made” consciously. And that, effectively, would not be felt afterwards as beings made by oneself, as the ideomotor effect commonly demonstrates.
Which finally leads us to mention lawyer Stephen White article on the Cornell International Law Journal pondering on just how war crimes and responsibility may be affected by such novelties: ‘Brave New World: Neurowarfare and the Limits of International Humanitarian Law‘ (PDF).
Could a soldier be prosecuted by the consequences of his unconscious cerebral activity, of which he by definition has no control of? Who would be responsible for an act? White suggests that the responsibility should be better spread over those involved in the development and application of the technology, and in all concludes that law must be discussed and revised for this new 21st century “neurowarfare”.
Which only emphasizes that man-machine integration on a full unconscious level may fundamentally change our perception and perhaps even nature. Transhumanism may seem like a silly gadgety “philosophy”, but a transhuman will not be just an Iron Man with increased physical powers. A transhuman will not even be someone with the entire Internet embedded on his brain. Being able to access all the information in the world with your conscious mind is one thing.
Having information and actions scanned and executed from your unconscious mind, and going even further, having information injected unconsciously in our brain to affect your consciousness would be something completely different. Something transhuman. Terrifyingly transhuman.
And this not only will be, but it’s being funded by DARPA right now. The first true transhuman may be, ironically, a soldier under command. “So say we all”.
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