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The purpose of this diary is to stimulate some thinking and discussion about the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative that President Obama announced on April 2.  I believe that there are unique ethical issues that must be continually kept in the forefront as this research proceeds and hope that the following will provide a useful perspectve. By way of background, I am a neuroscientist who published more than 150 articles, books, and book chapters as well as taught medical neuroscience for 38 years.

President Obama’s enthusiastic announcement in April that his 2014 budget proposal will include $100 million to fund the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative got me to thinking about what this might mean.  The stated goals of the BRAIN Initiative are to understand the dynamics of brain functioning in real time in healthy subjects and subjects with disorders like autism, ADHD, and dyslexias and disease like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s which will then lead to successful interventions, whether these be behavioral/cognitive, pharmaceutical, surgical or gene-based.  Further, the research will not just be applying existing imaging technology and cognitive evaluations to humans subjects, but will develop new technologies and work with animal models. The framework for the Brain Initiative has been presented in an article published in the journal Neuron in 2012 and can be found at http://download.cell.com/....  The U.S. NIH’s view can be found at  http://www.nih.gov/...

From a scientific perspective the BRAIN Initiative can be criticized for lack of focus.  While the broad goal is to find cures for diseases and BRAIN has been compared to the Human Genome Project, it lacks the focus that drove that project.  However, the substantial gains in understanding of human brain function that have come from application of imaging technology over the last 30 years speak against that perspective as being a particularly strong criticism.

The other criticism that has already been lodged has to do with what the information collected might ultimately be used for.  I must admit that when I see that DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DoD’s reseach wing) is one of the co-sponsors I begin to get a bit nervous.  To be fair Obama acknowledges the potential for ethical concern with this project and Dr. Nita Farahany who is a professor of bioethics at Duke and a member of Obama’s Obama’s Commission on Bioethical Issues has already indicated that ethical review will be part of BRAIN.  

The journalist Luke Dittrich is not buying this.  In an article in Esquire (http://www.esquire.com/...) he maintains that the BRAIN Initiative will lead to “the first viable method of controlling the human mind.”  I think that Mr. Dittrich is engaging in an egregious misuse of the slippery slope form of argument.  He implies that once we have mapped the brain it will be possible to stimulate specific areas “wirelessly” and thereby get the desired behavior.  This view fails both because the brain simply doesn’t have specific functions localized precisely in anatomically restricted modules, but produces higher order behaviors as emergent properties of serial and parallel activation of distributed modules, and because stimulation brain areas, as is done with transcortical magnetic stimulation generally leads to retardation of ongoing cognitive processes.

However, there are much more subtle issues here than direct mind control, at least in my opinion.  I will give one example and urge any of you who have read this far to consider this and perhaps think of others.  In 2012 an article titled “New scanner data for brand merketers: how neuroscience can help better understand differences in brand preferences” was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology (http://www.journals.elsevier.com/...)   The research discussed in this article demonstrated how functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), combined with behavioral testing, can lead to significantly more effective market segmentation strategies.  I do not maintain that this work is unethical, but the implications for the development of ever better methods to direct our behavior based on ever more sophisticated knowledge of patterns of brain activity associated with specific cognitive processes is certainly something that calls for as serious an effort in bioethics as in fundamental neuroscience research.

Originally posted to Old Gray Dog on Sat May 11, 2013 at 09:44 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Soon enough the right will (5+ / 0-)

    start focusing on this. Obama wants to read our minds and manipulate our thoughts! I guarantee this is going to be an issue for them.

    •  Perhaps they already have? (7+ / 0-)

      From pre-election 2004:

      When it comes to forming opinions and making judgments on hot political issues, partisans of both parties don't let facts get in the way of their decision-making, according to a new Emory University study. The research sheds light on why staunch Democrats and Republicans can hear the same information, but walk away with opposite conclusions.

      The investigators used functional neuroimaging (fMRI) to study a sample of committed Democrats and Republicans during the three months prior to the U.S. Presidential election of 2004. The Democrats and Republicans were given a reasoning task in which they had to evaluate threatening information about their own candidate. During the task, the subjects underwent fMRI to see what parts of their brain were active. What the researchers found was striking.

      "We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning,"
      says Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory who led the study. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts." Westen and his colleagues will present their findings at the Annual Conference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Jan. 28. ....

      Once partisans had come to completely biased conclusions -- essentially finding ways to ignore information that could not be rationally discounted -- not only did circuits that mediate negative emotions like sadness and disgust turn off, but subjects got a blast of activation in circuits involved in reward -- similar to what addicts receive when they get their fix, Westen explains.

      "None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged," says Westen. "Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones."

      http://www.eurekalert.org/...

      "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

      by cotterperson on Sat May 11, 2013 at 10:13:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Coke's been doing it for years (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cotterperson, CroneWit
      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

      A study by McClure et al. investigated the difference in branding between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. The study found that when the two drinks were tasted blind there was no difference in consumer preference between the brands. Both drinks produced equal activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is thought to be activated because the taste is rewarding. When the subjects were informed of the brand names the consumers preferred Coke, and only Coke activated the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, suggesting that drinking the Coke brand is rewarding beyond simply the taste itself. More subjects preferred Coke when they knew it was Coke than when the taste testing was anonymous, which demonstrates the power of branding to influence consumer behavior. There was also significant activation in the hippocampus and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex when subjects knew they were drinking Coke. These brain structures are known to play a role in memory and recollection, which indicates they are helping the subjects to connect their present drinking experience to previous brand associations. The study proposes that there are two separate processes contributing to consumer decision making: the ventromedial prefrontal cortex responds to sensory inputs and the hippocampus and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex recall previous associations to cultural information. According to the results of this study, the Coke brand has much more firmly established itself as a rewarding experience.[24]

      Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

      by PatriciaVa on Sat May 11, 2013 at 11:22:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Advertising has been all about (6+ / 0-)

        influencing people's emotions so they'll purchase a product since forever. Some of the most creative stuff had to do with snake oil and assorted other tonics and elixirs sold to the public during and after they'd been entertained by whatever the Medicine Show had to offer. Fear, excitement, skills, pretty ladies, empathy (for the poor crippled shill), amazement... The medicines may not have been particularly good for you, but generally they weren't too bad. And during prohibition - or for domestic situations where the woman banned alcohol - the tonics were about the only alcohol to be had. If it had some slippery elm, sassafras and/or wild cherry bark, even tincture of elderberries, it might even be pretty good for what ailed them. Marketing, marketing. Or as Mel Brooks said as Yogurt in Space Balls, Moichandizing!

        Television quickly became the most successful medium for this type of advertising soon after it was born. Has been thus ever since - the entertainment or the news (which is entertainment these days) draws the crowd and tickles their emotions in between light-and-sound hypnotic onslaughts of well-researched advertising. Remember when subliminal messaging was all the rage? The backlash at that level of manipulation got it banned in its most overt form, but advertising still imparts subliminal messaging in a number of [legal] ways. That's what emotional manipulation is all about, in the service of products or ideas. Merchandizing.

        Public education in this country is never going to require classes in critical thinking/advertising awareness that would teach kids what it is and does and how to resist. Its job is to turn out good little consumers easily manipulated.

  •  Thank you for this excellent post about our (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, PatriciaVa

    brains.  I see one set of key words, "to direct our behavior" which you refer to in the context of marketing to our tastes.  Isn't this what goes on all the time in the marketing world?  I don't quite see why this is of such concern if it helps buyer and seller connect.  Now, putting something into my brain that I never wanted, that would be injurious.

    •  Were it not for manipulating the brain, we would.. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cotterperson, melo, boophus

      ...not be spending tens of billions of dollars for sugar/sugar-substitute-laced water.

      Of course, how many Coke drinkers would willingly concede that they are indeed drinking soft drinks due to advertising?

      Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

      by PatriciaVa on Sat May 11, 2013 at 11:24:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "to direct our behavior"+"develop new technologies (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, koNko

    leads me directly back to Ratbots from over ten years ago. Yikes. Where are we headed?!

  •  We already have chemicals that will affect (0+ / 0-)

    precisely targeted neurochemical receptors.

    Thing is, behavioral reaction to receptor agonism/antagonism is not at all predictable.

    As an example, may I present the average jam band parking lot. You're mostly looking at 5hta/b agonists at work, but the freaks will be all over the place.

    •  Could you clarify? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      417els, Lujane

      " may I present the average jam band parking lot . . ."

      I have no idea what you're talking about here.  The individual words and even any pair make sense, but what is a "jam band parking lot"?  The rest of the post sounds as though I might be interested.

  •  In Re recent Heritage IQ / Immigrants - fMRI & IQ (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kimbeaux, cotterperson, Joieau, wa ma, CroneWit

    And a really good blog article "Biggest Intelligence Test Exposes the Limits-of-IQ" on the topic.

    Largest ever assessment of IQ, bolstered by selected fMRI testing.  Original paper in Neuron.

    No one component, or ‘IQ’, explained all the variations revealed by the tests.

    To bolster our results, Adrian and I used a $5 million brain scanner, which relies on a technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to study 16 participants as they carried out all 12 tests.  We found that each of the three different factors identified by the analysis did indeed correspond to a different brain network: these differences in cognitive ability map onto three distinct circuits in the brain.

    The results disprove once and for all the idea that a single measure of intelligence, such as ‘IQ’, is enough to capture all of the differences in cognitive ability that we see between people. Instead, several different brain circuits contribute to intelligence, each with its own unique capacity. A person may well be good in one of these areas, but they are just as likely to be bad in the other two.

    The work was performed by Adrian Owen and Adam Hampshire at the University of Western Ontario - they were previously at University of Cambridge, where the next stage of their research will continue with a new version of the test.
    We are now launching a new version of the tests here. To ensure we do not bias the results of the new tests, we can’t say much about the agenda other than that there are many more fascinating questions about the true nature of intelligence that we want to answer.
  •  Good diary. However, marketers have been doing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    linkage, PatriciaVa

    this for years and are certain to utilize any new tools developed by scientists either as a part of BRAIN project or not. I'm not sure what ethical limitations can or should be placed on basic research to prevent that. It's possible that some specific cases will arise and it's good to consult bioethicists if it happens. But it is quite unlikely that development of better imaging techniques will be by tiself unethical.

  •  Thank You - N/T (0+ / 0-)

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Sat May 11, 2013 at 01:30:24 PM PDT

  •  Other way around... (7+ / 0-)

    It's not about using machines to control the brain, it is about learning how to use our brains to control machines.  The DARPA part of the Brain Initiative, which is $50 million out of $110 million requested, is said to be focused on developing prosthetic technologies that allow our brains to control robotic arms, etc.  Such technology would be fast-tracked in collaboration with our wounded warriors.  This was brought up in this interview

    The NIH part, which is $40 million, has not yet been decided, pending the conclusions of the Dream Team of top neuroscientists convened by Obama.  

    NSF is slated to get $20 million, and the model organism neurobiologists and the computational modelers are jockeying for this money.  

    The public part of the Brain Initiative needs to be placed in the context of its private partners, who are pledging the lion's share of the money.  Howard Hughes Medical Inst, Allen Brain, Scripps, and the Kavil Foundation are already up and running with large-scale brain mapping projects and advanced computational and microscopic approaches.

    The challenge to the public agencies is to come up with new money that will harness what has been already generated by the private side of the Project, and find ways to synergize with it to benefit human health and brain science.  

    For example, a big thrust at the moment is to develop computer models based on the human cerebral cortex--i.e., to use carbon-based computational circuitry as a model to build better silicone-based machines.  I see no serious ethical issues.  A lot of this nano-technology fear-mongering is, uh, fear-mongering.  

    Beyond the science, there are two more practical issues related to the Brain Initiative.  1).  Is this new money allocation, or is it simply rebranding of a small piece of the current NIH neuroscience budget?  2).  The whole thing is moot if the Initiative can't pass Congress.  Stay tuned--I'm sure we are gonna hear a lot more mis-information if/when a bill gets to the floor of the House.

    All forms of fundamentalist thought breed magical thinking.

    by YankInUK on Sat May 11, 2013 at 02:32:55 PM PDT

    •  Computational Neuro-Science (0+ / 0-)

      (And toss a sic in there.)

      If the money would be used for actual - ya know - Bio-Inspired research along the lines of the Stanford NeuroGrid or Neumenta there's some hope of getting something useful out the other end.  If the NSF puts the money into the usual suspects then it's going to be money wasted.  

      "...[one] must still have Chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star." Nietzsche

      by ATinNM on Sat May 11, 2013 at 04:07:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Control of robotic arms... or robotic warplanes? (0+ / 0-)

      “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
      he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

      by jjohnjj on Mon May 13, 2013 at 02:27:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thankyou (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson

    That was really interesting. The expansion of knowledge in the last fifty years just blows my mind.

  •  Doesn't seem to be very much connected with the (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wa ma, melo, CroneWit, cynndara

    really exciting, really challenging work in brain research and performance of the last forty years.  I am not a Phd in any of the neurosciences, but I did have exposure by way of immunology, biochemistry, bacteriology, neuroanatomy to know back in the 70's there were big changes coming.

    A popular, for lay and niche workers alike about the advances in performance, retraining, new discoveries in development, mapping and using the new knowledge about the brain is Norman Doidge's book, "The Brain That Changes Itself".

           It was a  best seller back in 2007  in which the war among neuroscientists between localization and rigidity of brain mapping and function contrasts with neuroplasticity and the realization that things are nowhere and no way as fixed and permanent as we might have been taught  by the central dogma of neuroanatomists and neuroscience in general for nearly a hundred years.

    My question to readers  of the post and  this thread is: what does this mapping project actually do, given the focus is partially irrelevant, partially obsolete, and seemingly dedicated to digging into the brain to find commercial applications?

    •  a reasonable question (5+ / 0-)

      Many neuroscience researchers have expressed similar skepticism.  The comments section of this blog post illustrate some of the issues being discussed in the field.

      As I mentioned above, a lot of this mapping business is already going on in the private sector.  It may or not be the most cost-effective way to understand brains, but it is coming, and the public is not paying for much of it.  The data are pouring in now, but it remains unclear if all these data interesting.  The question for the the government science agencies is how to best use the new maps to do something bold and  worthwhile for brain science and medicine.

      Some of the ongoing controversies in the mapping projects involve arguments about which models are most informative.  If we wish to build a tiny flying machine that can maneuver around a room like a fly, then a fly brain might be a good model for a control system.

      However, in my opinion, the big questions about human brain science and medicine are not well-addressed by simpler animal models.  We are unique because of our huge cerebral cortex.  Figuring out how that part of the brain works brings us closer to not only understanding Alzheimer's, Schizophrenia, etc--it also brings us into the realm of what makes us human.

      Luckily, the cerebral cortex, the largest part of our brain, is organized into repeating layers of neurons.  Understanding how these carbon-based circuits store and retrieve memories might, in the future, lead to silicone circuits based on biological principles.  And that is pretty darn cool.

      All forms of fundamentalist thought breed magical thinking.

      by YankInUK on Sat May 11, 2013 at 03:45:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  One Thing It Could Fund (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melo, CroneWit, cynndara

      Is a statistically valid comparative neuro-anatomy of the Hominidae family: chimps, bonobos, orangutans, human; the largest such study used (IIRC) 8 brains of chimps, 4 of bonobos, 2 of gorillas, and 6 human.   (And I'm not going to get into how absurd those numbers are.)   A study we very much need if, for no other reason, to stop people burbling on about how gosh-darn super-special (with secret sauce!) us humans is.

      Unfortunately, after looking at the people behind BRAIN, the prospect of such a study being funded is zilch.

      "...[one] must still have Chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star." Nietzsche

      by ATinNM on Sat May 11, 2013 at 04:20:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  what i am hearing on the 'streets of neuroscience' (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      YankInUK, nzanne

      is that it is not clear what it will fund, but likely to fund alot of optogenetics experiments and high resolution imaging, like with 2-photon microscopy. (i am a neuroscientist).

      of course, here's the funny part. Congress has to approve it. hahaha... congress has to approve an Obama initiative..

      "None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps" Thurgood Marshall

      by UTvoter on Sat May 11, 2013 at 09:34:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I bet this would excite Dick Cheney and Brennan. (0+ / 0-)

    "Maybe we could identify potential terrorists by their brainwaves!  Put the NSA on this fast!"

  •  Anyone (0+ / 0-)

    Anyone who thinks they have free will in the current corporatized world has not been reading the research. The degree to which our choices/decisions (without us knowing) are manipulated by companies that spend lots of $$$s on figuring out how to separate us from our money is incredible. For fun look at some of the recent behavioral economics research.

    There's room at the top they're telling you still But first you must learn how to smile as you kill If you want to be like the folks on the hill

    by taonow on Sat May 11, 2013 at 03:30:41 PM PDT

    •  LOL. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ybruti

      I know they have excellent research, but it's not much good if the would-be subject doesn't participate in commercial culture beyond bare necessities.  I'm sure it sways millions.  But the person who doesn't watch TV or go to movies or read magazines, who gets all of their infotainment off the internet by self-initiated download, refuses to join e-mail lists or allow sellers to impose on their "stream", and for good measure, lies on any "registration" form necessary to get access to a site, doesn't usually have to deal with any advertisements that aren't, well, amusing.  Like the porn ads after I identify myself as a seventeen-year-old male.

      Anyone in this country is aware of the pitches to a certain extent.  But those who have actually studied them, and studied counter-programming and resistance techniques, can make a space for themselves to act outside of the controls.  I do both recommend and attempt to teach others how to do this when I have the opportunity.  I would say from experience that at least 5% of the population has the potential to become Free Humans/Other People.

  •  Although there is reason for serious ethical (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    UTvoter, melo, YankInUK

    concern in this initiative, I think the concern over the possible nefarious uses of fMRI is premature. This is especially true in the hype of "reading" minds and controlling behavior. A large portion of the published research on fMRI is seriously flawed by small ns, over interpretation and lack of replication. The availability of a new technology is driving this research without a firm theory and under girding to guide it.

    However it is never too late to begin working on the ethical implications as they may well be relevant in the future.

    "There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats ..." - Kenneth Grahame -

    by RonK on Sat May 11, 2013 at 08:03:00 PM PDT

  •  This is very important research. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nzanne

    Because maybe someone will finally be able to figure out whats wrong with me.

    From the day I was born, I've experienced all (ALL) physical sensation as extreme pain. Even a small chance at getting a name for the problem would be worth it. Living like this sucks.

    I definitely agree about the ethics though. We need to work out good guidelines on this without delay, so we can get to the helping people part.

    "Trust not the words of a poet, as he is born to seduce. Yet for poetry to seize the heart, it must ring with the chimes of truth."

    by kamrom on Sun May 12, 2013 at 06:45:38 AM PDT

  •  Here come the tin foil hats as a fashion must. (0+ / 0-)

    Fear is the Mind Killer...

    by boophus on Sun May 12, 2013 at 09:43:32 AM PDT

  •  The ethical implication I wonder about (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oaktown Girl

    is the detection of either a serious condition or prediliction in someone who is not aware of it.  Should that person be informed?  Should there be follow up?

    How soon before we are prescreened to see what our predispositions are?

    Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

    by barbwires on Sun May 12, 2013 at 11:07:47 AM PDT

    •  Your concern concerns genetics, not brain-mapping (0+ / 0-)

      The ethical issues you raise are being discussed extensively in the context of using a person's genetic information and their right to privacy.  But I fail to see how a better understanding how our brains work, in the context of the Brain initiative, carry any ethical concerns beyond the usual issues of animal research and patient rights.

      Since this is a political blog, I do wonder if the Brain Initiative might help explain the current attempts by Obama's enemies to float conspiracy theories.  Why is conspiratorial thinking so preferentially found on the Right side of the political aisle? My pet theory is government conspiracies carried out by people on the Right are far more likely to actually BE conspiracies (Watergate, Iran/Contra)--precisely because those who fabricate the conspiracies on a regular basis are those best positioned to actually engineer one and participate in it.

      The nefarious but vague suggestions made in the Esquire article linked in this diary are also tin-foil if you ask me.

      All forms of fundamentalist thought breed magical thinking.

      by YankInUK on Sun May 12, 2013 at 11:56:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You should visit the HAARP CT parts of the left (0+ / 0-)

        "What the Bleep Do We Know", the people who talk to water to see it smile, the chemtrails CT, and many more.

        •  tin foil yes (0+ / 0-)

          But I don't see where this sort of New Age stuff is political, Left or Right.  Back in the late 60s/early 70s, the Left had more conspiracy theories than today.

          All forms of fundamentalist thought breed magical thinking.

          by YankInUK on Sun May 12, 2013 at 02:23:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Maybe it's because I live in California (0+ / 0-)

            but the New Age people here are leftists.

            HAARP is my favorite example of CT, because we are asked to believe in a secret EM theory discovered by Nicola Tesla 100 years ago, which is known to the government but not taught at universities and has never been rediscovered by any physicists outside the government or military. HAARP can manipulate the weather and earthquakes. This all has to do with Geoengineering and weather and earthquake wars that the US and Russia are fighting... in secret. And all those chemtrail grids over the Monterey Bay are part of it.

            •  I'm not sure they're the sort of people I consider (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              YankInUK

              to be true political Leftists.  Loonies are Loonies.

              "Evil is a lack of empathy, a total incapacity to feel with their fellow man." - Capt. Gilbert,Psychiatrist, at the end of Nuremberg trials.

              by 417els on Sun May 12, 2013 at 05:04:54 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  modifying my pet theory (0+ / 0-)

              atana, you have convinced me that CT is just a general property of brains, not a political one.  Hillary was partly correct and partly wrong:  there IS a vast right-wing conspiracy, but the right does not have a monopoly on CT.

              CT occurs whenever data are subjugated to dogma, requiring stories to be fabricated to explain alternative realities. If one considers that the brains of schizophrenic people are especially susceptible to CT, perhaps the Brain Initiative will teach us what has gone wrong.  One thing is for sure:  the Brain Initiative, as envisioned by Obama et al,  is not gonna lead to corporate or government control of our minds

              All forms of fundamentalist thought breed magical thinking.

              by YankInUK on Sun May 12, 2013 at 09:07:33 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Ethics consideration (0+ / 0-)

    is LONG overdue.  When the Brave New World of psychosocial manipulation was being envisioned in the 1940's, researchers lacked the power to fulfill their fantasies and even if implemented, at least the intent of all players was to improve the lives and functioning of individuals in society.  Power was vested in government, and government, although at times stifling, was at least dedicated to the service of the People.

    Since the rampant re-assertion of 19th-century capitalist ideology and social Darwinism, power is vested in the Corporation, which has the avowed purpose of doing whatever is possible in order to make more and bigger profits for its ownership caste, whatever the costs to others or society at large.  And into this, we want to toss the power to intimately interpret the tangled web of thought and emotion in the human mind?  Personally, I think that given that all advanced technologies in this society become the proprietary property of the Powers That Be, all technology higher than matches and black-powder rifles should be thrown on a bonfire somewhere out in the desert and then dusted with a 50-megaton nuclear warhead.  Power like this should not be put into the hands of greedy overaged adolescent sociopaths with delusions of competence.  And that's exactly who will get it.

  •  It's a case of: the EU is going to eat our lunch (0+ / 0-)

    in this technology area. They are spending €1 billion on the Human Brain Project. So we have to throw some money in this direction too. How about $110 million?

    What's this proposal -- a project called BAM? (Brain Activity Map). That will do. But the name is no good -- late night talk show hosts will make fun of it. Rename it and work it up into something that shows those Europeans the US is still serious about science. But $110 million serious -- we're not trying to match them dollar for euro here.

    /snark

    •  also, we get to use the Euro-data (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      417els

      All of these mapping projects publish their maps online.  This is another reason that the allocation of Brain Initiative money should target non-duplication of ongoing efforts.  The data are there; the questions are how does one use the data, and what parts are useful.

      All forms of fundamentalist thought breed magical thinking.

      by YankInUK on Sun May 12, 2013 at 02:28:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Having spent a better part of my youth (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    417els

    studying German Idealism and existential philosophy, it seems rather obvious to me that the brain doesn't operate in a vacuum; it requires a cultural context (broadly construed) to even produce anything remotely coherent.  Contexts change, and so does the way the brain interacts with our body, then the world.  We already have "mind control", in the form of cultural manipulation--this is exactly why income disparity hardly phases the average Joe anymore, whereas a hundred years ago we were witnessing armed confrontations between workers and the factory owners' flunkies on a regular basis.  That said, just as with bioethics, we do need neuroethics.  As with all technology, the products of neuroscience need to be democratized to the fullest extent possible.

  •  Ethics aren't keeping up with science on any front (0+ / 0-)

    And in general the market is ahead of both science and ethics.

    It is something I worry about.  The ethics of genomic understanding, reproductive technologies, and so on seem to me wildly behind.  

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