Monday, March 05, 2007

Technocorrections Du Jour

  • This one made almost all the major news websites today. We've already talked about it, but I guess our couple hundred readers don't dent the ratings. German scientists have used MRIs to light up the areas of the brain which signal intent to perform some action when given different choices before the action happens. As always, this technology has some powerful positive possibilities to aid humanity. But then there's this: Civil libertarians are concerned that mind-reading technology may fit into a trend of pre-emptive security measures in which authorities could take action against individuals before they commit a crime - a scenario explored in the 2002 science fiction film "Minority Report."
    Already, Britain is creating a national DNA database that would allow authorities to track people with violent predispositions. In addition, the government has also floated the idea of locking up people with personality disorders that could lead to criminal behavior.
    "We need to start thinking about how far we are going to allow these technologies to be used," said Wolpe.
    Despite the fears, Haynes believes his research has more benign practical applications.
    For example, he says it will contribute to the development of machines already in existence that respond to brain signals and allow the paralyzed to change TV channels, surf the Internet, and operate small robotic devices.
  • And this additional little gem about the home of freedom that is Britain: CHILDREN aged 11 to 16 are to have their fingerprints taken and stored on a secret database, internal Whitehall documents reveal. . . . Opposition politicians and privacy campaigners warn that the plans show ministers are turning Britain into a “surveillance society”.
    David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: “This borders on the sinister and it shows the government is trying to end the presumption of innocence. With the fingerprinting of all our children, this government is clearly determined to enforce major changes in the relationship between the citizen and the state in a way never seen before.”
    This isn't some sci-fi novel anymore, folks. When do we start talking about it? (h/t Talk Left)
  • Well, if/when we ever do, maybe this article can be one of the foundations (h/t Neuroethics & Law Blog). It takes seriously the expanding role cognitive science, MRIs, and legal strategies built around them will play in our crim just system, specifically death penalty cases. Its conclusion? ". . . ironic and tragic consequences, producing a death penalty regime that is even more draconian and less humane than the deeply flawed present framework." Have a good evening.

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