Brain and intent scanning

Feb 17, 2007

They are now seriously experimenting with this. Bruce found the link and says…

There's not a lot of detail, but my guess is that it doesn't work very well. But that's not really the point. If it doesn't work today, it will in five, ten, twenty years; it will work eventually. What we need to do, today, is debate the legality and ethics of these sorts of interrogations.

I'm intrigued by this, and I haven't seen "Minority report". Maybe I should, judging by how many comments refer to it.

"Freedom of thought" is a constitutional right in most Western democracies. And my only comment to this thought-scanning thing is that it's not really different from any other profiling. The only legal and ethical way of judging people, say in law enforcement, is to judge them individually and based on specific actions. Anything else, such as profiling based on some generic criteria, leads to horrendous results.

Judge by race? Nazis did that. Judge by religion? Islamic terrorists. Judge by ethnicity? Countless examples of genocide, including Estonians in 1940s who were deported en masse by communists to Siberia, some of them never to come back.

The latter examples have in common that most often, the totalitarian regimes chose you for elimination simply because you belonged in a group or family that they didn't like, and not because you yourself had done something illegal (and of course laws themselves could be twisted). The mind works in unpredictable ways and while there may be certain limited legal and ethical uses for this "intent scanning", its uncontrolled use somehow for me is at the same level as this generic profiling.

Specific provisions in § 40 and 41 the Estonian constitution say,

Everyone has freedom of conscience, religion and thought. Everyone has the right to remain faithful to his or her opinions and beliefs. No one shall be compelled to change them. No one shall bear legal liability because of his or her beliefs.

As long as these work in practice, I guess all is not lost yet.