Neurology and Mind Control:
A beneficial technology or the opening of Pandora's box?
Terilyn Lee Johnston
Science, Technology, and the Pursuit of Truth
15 December 2002
Often the center-piece of science fiction and dramatic films such as Star Wars, A Clockwork Orange, and Conspiracy Theory, the idea of mind control is seemingly fantastical, unrealistic, and the invention of a right wing conspiracy theory (created by those who fear the "Big Brother" government). The reality of scientific neurology research, however, is not contained within science fiction novels and films. Mind control is a very apparent and quickly developing area of science, one that merits extensive research and evaluation. This paper will evaluate the area of mind through five areas of analysis: Historical developments, the problems associated with mind control, the benefits that are apparent within this area of research, the implications upon society that are inherent in light of this science, and finally proposed solutions that would remedy the problems that are existent within the status quo.
History, Background, and the Status Quo
The field of psychology and its subset neurology are a relatively youthful area of study. Thus, the developments that have resulted from years of research are at best primitive. In order to understand the advances that have been made, however, one must inherently evaluate the beginning of this area of research and study. One could argue that the use of mind control was first brought to the forefront of public knowledge in the evaluation of German Nazi military officials at the Nuremberg trials following World War II. "The medical trials at Nuremberg in 1947 deeply impressed upon the world that experimentation with unknowing human subjects is morally and legally unacceptable" (McGonigle, 1999). Recognizing that the practice of molding an innocent individual's mind for the use of another's evil experimentation as morally repugnant, the development of mind control techniques, in the United States, was not pursued initially. The emergence of mind control in the United States can be observed through two lenses: classified governmental development during the Cold War and research facilitated by the scientific and psychological communities.
The onset of the Cold War changed the United States' policies toward the area of mind control. In the early 1950s American intelligence reported that the Communist Bloc nations, such as North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union, were engaging in the development of an extensive mind control program that could be used as a weapon against the United States. This prompted the United States to engage in its own mind control initiatives. "A classified 1952 study by the US government's Psychological Strategy Board laid out an entire agenda for behavior-control research. Calling communist brainwashing 'a serious threat to mankind,' scientists urged that drugs, electric shock and other techniques be examined in 'clinical studies…done in a remote situation'" (Budiansky, Goode, and Gest, 1994).
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was placed as the forerunner in mind control research. This was accomplished through the establishment of a program code-named MKULTURA. The primary objective of MKULTURA was to forge ahead of the Communists' research and to become more effective in this area. "MKULTURA was established to counter perceived Soviet and Chinese advances in brain washing and interrogation techniques" (McGonigle, 1999). While the Department of Defense worked to rapidly counter Communist weapons capabilities, the CIA attempted to extend the arms race to the inclusion of actual human beings. An inherent moral issue, the government ignored the scientific guidelines that had been established for the use of experimentation on humans by the Nuremberg trials (generally referred to as "the Nuremberg Principle").
The subjects of this experimentation ranged from military soldiers to college students to mentally ill to prisoners. Few of these individuals were aware of the research and experimentation that they were being subjected to. In 1985 the abuses that occurred during the Cold War period of experimentation were exposed as a result of a lawsuit that reached the United States Supreme Court entitled MKULTURA and the CIA vs. Sims. According to information that was subsequently to the public, MKULTURA involved as many as 149 subprojects, 80 institutions, 185 Private Researchers, and an unknown number of subjects. The range of experimentation included unauthorized administration of "Drugs, hypnosis, electroshock, lobotomy…" to subjects (Budiansky, Goode, Gest, 1994). In one example of a technique referred to as "psychic driving," psychologist Dr. Ewen Cameron "…gave his subjects mega doses of LSD, subjected them [his subjects] to drug-induced 'sleep therapy' for up to 65 consecutive days and applied electroshock therapy at 75 times the usual intensity. To shape new behavior, Cameron forced them to listen to repeated recorded messages for 16-hour intervals…" (McGonigle, 1999).
As the CIA destroyed most documentation of these occurrences in 1973, the number of individuals involved in mind control experimentation is indefinite. Other Supreme Court cases, such as United States vs. Stanley and Orlikow, et. Al. vs. United States have uncovered pieces of the research that the CIA participated in through MKULTURA. Nine individuals who claimed to have been subjected to administration of "…heavy doses of LSD, electroshock and psychic driving" (McGonigle, 1999) through the CIA's research were awarded the insufficient retribution of $750,000. Unfortunately, however, the chances of additional victims receiving compensation is nearly impossible as, "Records are gone, key witnesses have died, people have moved; in the drug-testing cases, people are damaged in other ways, which undermines their credibility" (Budiansky, Goode, Gest, 1994).
The second lens that one must evaluate the development of mind control in light of is within the scope of independent (from the government) research and development. The three major areas within this branch involve research pertaining to microchip identification research, radio-induced stimulus, and drug-induced stimulus. Each of these areas has been infiltrated with commercial applications in addition to scientific discovery and development.
The area of microchip identification is an area of neurology that has been commercially implemented in the status quo through animal and pet identification. These microchips, which are approximately the size of a grain of rice, can be inserted painlessly into a subject, contain the capacity to hold the subject's identification information (name, address, phone number, etc.) There are currently three developed types of microchips that are capable of use in humans. The first is a "read-only" chip. This means that once information has been placed on that chip, it is permanent. These types of chips would be the most applicable to the public at large. It could be used, for example, "…to identify Alzheimer's patients, children, and the unconscious. A broader use would be as a sort of national identification card, based upon the identifying number carried on the microchip" (Ramesh, 1997).
The second type of microchip that is available through this technology is that with read-write capabilities. This chip would hold the same type of information as the read-only chip, but would have the ability to have information added or subtracted from it. This type of chip would be useful in the updating of criminal records or medical records. The read-write chip would also allow for more practical application such as easy access to financial records through the storing of numbers and passwords or automatic payment of tolls on highways.
The third, and final, type of chip is comparable to the second in that it has read-write capabilities, but additional contains a tracking device. Uses of this chip would likely be by law enforcement and trial courts, but could also help large corporations track who is in their buildings in order to aid in security measures.
The second aspect of independent research and development is that of radio-induced stimulus. Developed by behavioral psychologists as a way to condition patients, this area has expanded to the commercial sphere through products, which use brain waves to train individuals, conditioning them to react in certain ways to certain stimuli. Psychologist, Dr. Jose M. R. Delgado, intracerebral stimulus, through electrodes placed on a subject that allowed them to be influenced directly by electrical shocks. Delgado's study was an attempt to determine the possibility of using this type of stimulus to structure a mentally damaged individual's interactions with other persons. Through prior experimentation, Delgado noted, "Experimentation in animals has demonstrated the practicality of long-term, programmed stimulation of the brain to inhibit episodes of assaultive behavior, to increase or decrease appetites, to modify drives, and to modulate intracerebral reactivity. Some of these findings may be applicable to the treatment of cerebral disturbances in man" (1968). While Dr. Delgado advocated a very cautious approach to the use of radio stimulus, psychology and science has been able to expand upon his discoveries to remarkable advances within current day technological development.
The most recent
advancements have come from New York State University where a team of researchers
has announced their ability to control a rat's brain through electrical impulses.
"The five ratbots created for the experiment had three tiny probes
implanted in their brains. One probe…stimulates the reward or pleasure sensing
area of the brain. The other two probes are in the areas that process signals
from the whiskers, which tell rats when to turn" (Munro, 2002). Not only were the researchers
able to guide the rats successfully through a maze of sorts, but they also
have the ability to do so from a sizable distance, half a kilometer. While
the scientists involved in the project claim that they have no intention of
applying their technologies to humans—"'Humans?
Who said anything about humans? We work on rats.'" (The Future of Mind Control, 2002)—it stands fairly obvious that the possibility exists.
This type of technology has most recently found its way into the commercial arena through the development of a product, "NeuroHarmony," which uses a headband laced with electrodes to read an individual's brainwaves in order for the user to complete a series of puzzles, building concentration skills. "The electronic gadget, which can be used as a portable device or connected to a personal computer, puts users through a series of games…in one game, a user focuses on pieces of a broken wine glass. As the user concentrates…the pieces come back together to form the glass. If the person shifts his or her attention, the glass again breaks into tiny pieces" (Stacklin, 2002). This application is a far cry from the usage that Dr. Delgado intended with his pioneering research, but so seems to be the trend in science; the development of marketable "toys" for the use of the general public (those who are able to afford such vanities).
The third realm of scientific research in the area of mind control is through the use of drug stimulation. The origins of this research are associated with John Hopkins University in 1973 with their research concerning the tracking of drugs such as morphine and its interaction with the brain and other parts of the body. This led to the discovery of neurotransmitters such as endorphins, which release hormones with effects similar to opiates. The researchers concluded that, "Virtually all the organs of the body are ultimately regulated by the brain…With all its responsibilities, the brain needs complex reporting and control mechanisms to cope with changing internal and external environments…Some overall control mechanisms apparently manifest themselves in our consciousness in the form of emotion or mood" (Alexander, 1983).
This discovery shed much light on the previous administration of drugs to mentally damaged patients in order to control their behavior. It has led to the intelligent, rather than random, distribution of these drugs to individuals as scientists have discovered that certain neurotransmitters a receptive to certain types of stimuli. "…These explorations into the nature of the mind are already yielding important practical applications, primarily drugs for treating mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, and memory loss…" (Alexander, 1983).
Further research has produced the development of two genres of drugs, which can initiate or depress certain responses. The first type is the agonist. This type of drug has the ability to stimulate certain types of neurotransmitters to combat mental disorders such as depression. "An agonist not only fits a receptor molecule but also activates it to initiate some operation in a cell" (Alexander, 1983). The second type is the antagonist. This drug has the capability to block chemical exchange between different types of neurotransmitters. "An antagonists…plugs into the receptor but doesn't activate it. The antagonist just sits there, jamming the receptor so that the natural neurotransmitter can't activate it either" (Alexander, 1983).
While the research that has been completed can be viewed as quite pragmatic within science and technology, especially in the field of medical psychology, it is inherent there are rather extensive current and potential problem within the status quo. As the first section was divided up into government development and private or independent development, so will this section (and those that follow) be similar.
The problems with the government research of the Cold War era are quite apparent. While the MKULTURA project no longer exists, there is no legislation in place that explicitly addresses the restriction guidelines of research on human beings by government or private researchers. Thus, the problems that plagued the MKULTURA project: misuse of subjects, abuse of subjects' rights, the interest of military and political gain above human rights, to name a select few, are still imbedded within the realm of neurological research.
Moving onto the area of privatized research, the concept of implanted microchips in the brains of humans is an idea that is dangerously close to infringing upon the line protecting human privacy rights. The legal precedent against mandated implementation of a microchip national identification system is great. "Justice Cardozo in his famous statement that 'every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body" (Ramesh, 1997). Thus, it does not seem probable that, without the Supreme Court re-evaluating this issue, this technology will be utilized on a national level. The lack of legislative regulation in this area is also a substantial issue for further research and application of this technology.
The remainder of research surrounding the area of mind control has resulted in what can referred to as the rise of "cosmopolitan" mind technologies. These are recognizable through products such as NeuroHarmony and the increase in doctor prescription of anti-depressant drugs such Prozac. The real danger in these technologies as well as drug-induced technologies that instruct one's brain to operate in a self-prescribed fashion is the placement of great value on obtaining this type of technology. In essence, there are two looming problems with this type of mentality: a movement toward an attempt at perfected humans and the gradual division between those who are enhanced by this technology and those who are not.
The idea of a perfected man has permeated society since Ponce de Leon's search for the fountain of youth in the newly discovered tropical land of "Florida." Society attempts to perfect itself through cosmetics, ultra slim fast, and machines that work one's abs, arms, buttocks, and big toes. How much greater, given the opportunity, would the demand for "mind perfecting" drugs be? "…Drugs for the brain are simply one more step down a road taken by orthodontics, face lifts, Viagra, and other medical extras" ("Open Your Mind," 2002).
Drugs, however, are phenomenally expensive. Thus, the publication of these magic "personality correctors," would inherently only be available to those who have the means by which to purchase such products. Many argue that the current gap between economic classes: the haves vs. the have-nots, is too large to be ignored, however, it's fairly obvious that the ability to chemically alter one's brain activity to make one more socially desirable would result in a greater division between those who have the means to purchase mind-altering drugs and those who simply do not. This is a neither problem that perhaps society should not need nor desire to deal with. "Some worry that this may blunt the differences between individuals turning society into one homogeneous mass. Others see the opposite risk—a Gattacesque division between the privileged and the unenhanced" ("Open Your Mind," 2002).
The Benefits of Mind Control—What's Good About this Technology?
Though there seem to be more detriments to the idea of mind control than benefits, the concepts that create a basis for this sphere of research are actually quite admirable. Though the MKULTURA experiments of the Cold War era were abhorrent, all research in an area of science must initiate at some point, by some means. Essentially, the past mistakes of mind control research create of springboard from which science can bound into a new area of knowledge. Without the past, it is impossible to realistically look into the future. The past also sets a precedence from which comprehensive policy can be formed.
Contemporary technologies such as the microchip have the possibility of serving as a necessary step in perpetuating the United States' security. If microchips were installed in the brains of all United States' citizens it would be impossible for illegal aliens to profit from a society to which they owe no allegiance or financial support. While perhaps an idealized thought, it would serve as probable that a tragedy such as the 09/11 attack upon the United States would not have occurred had sensors been able to recognize microchips that had been placed in the brains of would-be terrorists by their own countries. These possibilities as well as the possibility of being able to track recently released criminals may actually decrease the percentage of repeat offenders.
Medical psychological advances in the area of drug therapy have given thousands of damaged individuals the opportunity to live virtually normal lives. Those who suffer from depression have been able to stabilize, children who would be unsuccessful in a traditional learning environment due to ADD and ADHD have been given the ability to concentrate at a reasonable levels due to drug therapy. Advances such as electrotherapy have been able to prevent violent behavior of patients, which in turn has improved the quality of life for those individuals and for those that interact with them. This technology has also equipped physicians with the ability to determine the correct course of action when dealing with therapeutic surgeries and other types of treatment.
In the area of cosmopolitan or cosmetic mind controlling technologies, the benefits are primarily that of convenience, rather than of pragmatic function. These types of technologies, however, have the ability to detect possible mental defects and talents early on in life, causing treatment and/or cultivation of those traits to improve the life of that person. Drugs, as the above analysis has previously stated, have the capabilities of correcting chemical imbalances to improve an individual's mood or to correct an undesirable personality trait in order for that person to function more positively in society.
The Implications of Mind Control on Society
Technological advances in computing and medicals advances have largely overshadowed a developing science, mind control. It has similarly been dwarfed by scientific breakthroughs in the area of cloning. The general under coverage of this subject by the media has created a widespread apathy toward the possibility of mind control and the need for legislation to regulate such research. For those who are aware that the development of mind controlling technology exists, they view it through a lens of impracticality and as a superfluous cosmetic science. The idea of mind control holds far more power than the public grants it. Apathy is a dangerous stance to take in any circumstance, but a moment's reflection on the effects that perfected mind control technology could have upon this society, and the inherent need for public action on this subject would be obvious. "…Neurotechnology poses a greater threat—and also a more immediate one. Moreover it is a challenge that is largely ignored by regulators and the public, who seem unduly obsessed by gruesome fantasies of genetic dystopias" ("The Future of Mind Control," 2002).
As would seem inherent, the implications of the technology of mind control include the many harms and benefits that are listed throughout this essay. Very real political implications such as the issue of privacy and regulation apply directly to the social climate of American society. Each of the problems and advantages that this type of technology suggests will have a momentous affect upon society and the manner in which human being themselves should be, and are, viewed and valued.
Why is the idea of regulation in this area so important? As was previously mentioned, the need for protection of privacy rights, especially dealing with technologies such as microchip implants, is essential for the preservation of the rights and liberties that have been established as inherent to all human beings in the United States Constitution as well as other human rights documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established by the United Nations. Elaine E. Ramesh contends in a statement that is directed toward the idea of microchip implementation, but can be cross-applied to all of the technologies that have been discussed, "…Legislation must be enacted to ease the very great intrusion into individual privacy" (Ramesh, 1997).
In 1997 the distinguished senator from Ohio, John Glenn, submitted to Congress the Human Research Subject Protection Act of 1997. This bill intended for all private institutions performing neurological research and tests on humans to be accountable to and regulated by the government. The act was written as a direct response to the revelation of the atrocities conducted by the CIA and others in the midst of the Cold War. The bill would have held private research institutions responsible for viable, honorable experimentation, lack of adherence to be punishable by law. A noble attempt at regulation in this field, the legislation was killed in committee, never reaching the floor of the Senate. This action, however, shows a very real concern that exists within the some facets of the status quo that will not likely be ignored for much
The apparent threshold of implementation of this technology into the status quo provides an imminent need for legislation that would serve as damage control for possible problems in the future. Because the technology is advancing so quickly without an audible outcry from the public at large, it is essential that a preventative measure be enacted to avert the possibility of humans from becoming lab rats in the development of mind control technologies. Regulation would also aid in the focused and guided direction of research that would benefit the public.
Being that this paper is being constructed for a course with "truth" and the values associated with Christianity at its very core, it is essential to discuss the approach that the Christian community should utilize when evaluating the area of mind control both Biblically and philosophically.
One of the primary mandates related to one's life as a Christian is the absolute submission of that individual to God and His will for his/her life. In the midst of his Earthly ministry, Jesus Christ is recorded of reminding God's chosen people, the Jews, of the ultimate law that permeated the Torah and upon which all other laws were based, "…'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind'…" (Matthew 22:37, NKJV).
Jesus' purpose in making this statement was very clear and very deliberate. A true follower of God should have the Creator at the core of his/her very being, letting nothing else deter him/her. This, of course, includes the mind. The apostle Paul reiterates this sentiment in his epistle to the Romans, "The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace" (Romans 8:6, NIV). It is clear that God, speaking first through his son incarnate and through his follower, the apostle Paul, places a significant value upon the minds of his children. It is also evident that an inherent obligation of those who are true Christians is the allowance of God, or the Holy Spirit, to have total and utter control over one's mind. The prophet Isaiah reminds Israel of the benefits of placing God at the center of their minds, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You" (Isaiah 26:3, NKJV).
The Christian response to the technology of mind control, in light of these scripture passages should be, then, to resist the temptation to become involved in a situation in which another individual is controlling the Christian's mind. It seems, however, that there should be certain circumstances in which the use of behavior altering drugs should be appropriate from a Christ-centered standpoint. Because Christians, like all other humans, suffer from chronic psychological disorders such as depression the use of altering drugs to significantly improve one's standard of living is an appropriate stance. These drugs should be used for medicinal purposes only, and should be monitored closely, for the moment that these substances become essential for an individual's coping with daily life, is the moment that it has achieved the status of idol within that individual's life. According to the first of the Ten Commandments, the placement of an item between an individual and God is not only detrimental to that relationship, but is an obvious sin, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything…You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…" (Exodus 20:4,5).
A unique attribute of human beings that has long been held as invaluable by the philosophical and religious communities has been the element of free will. This is the ability that humans possess that allows them to make decisions based upon their own deductive and reasoning skills. Philosophers argue that under the technological advances in drugs, machines, and therapies that have occurred in the field of neurology, the idea of free will, will be significantly diminished. The essence of mind control is inherently contrary to the idea and significance of free will to human beings. An article that was printed in The Economist clearly addresses this philosophical issue with mind control, "Erik Parens of the Hastings Centre, a think tank in Garrison, New York, is concerned that it could, for example, 'reduce the number of ways acceptable to be a person" ("Open Your Mind, 2002). Philosophers along with theologians argue that the implications of a medical technology turned cosmetic—the direction that mind control seems to be going—are simply another division erected between humans, decreasing their value in relation to each other.
Solutions and Further Suggestions
It is clear that the technology of mind control faces some substantial challenges within the theoretical and practical realms of public life and thought. The solutions to issues such as the stigmas attached to mind control and the currently uninhibited realms of research abilities, are currently, unfortunately, rather general. First, there is an apparent need for public discourse on this subject as its implementation becomes far more "real" and plausible within the status quo. At the point that the public becomes involved in this discussion, the more imminent Congressional action on the subject will become. This leads to the second solution that, if implemented, would help to solve for the issues apparent in the status quo.
This solution is simply the increase of Congressional discussion as to the need to regulate the extent of experimentation that is allowed in the United States in the field of mind control. The first, unfortunately failed, attempt by Senator John Glenn sets a precedent for legal and legislative dialogue on the subject. It is imperative for the future of this technology that the government takes a proactive approach to ensuring the safety of Americans from unregulated scientific experimentation. Precedent for regulatory action can be observed in legislation passed to prohibit the cloning of humans and certain types of experimentation with stem cells.
The final solvent action that can be utilized to improve the negative prospects of mind control research is through simple education of the public at large. This, of course, includes the various venues of dialogue and publication from the scientific community. Currently most of the issues that are being presented are reported on by mainstream popular culture sources, which discredit the serious implications of this area of science as cosmetic and novel. The realization of the profound nature of neurology would lead to quick and effect action to further improve the current apathy that this society seems to exhibit toward mind control.
As developments within the realm of neurological research race quickly from an area of black and white evaluation to a land of fuzzy grayness, it is essential that this area be thoughtfully and carefully assessed. It is difficult to halt an advancing science, especially when it morphs into an entity fully supported by capitalist gain on a mainstream market of commercialization. The integrity of science must be preserved within this area of research and development, causing the containment of neurology, halting its intense escalation of momentum toward a status of unadulterated deregulation. The Economist expresses the evident need for further discussion of this topic and serves as a sufficient conclusion with the words, "…If society is concerned about the pace and ethics of scientific advance, it should at least form a clearer picture of what is worth worrying about, and why" ("The Future of Mind Control, 2002). The time has come for society to realize the significance of this science and perform appropriate action.
Alexander, Tom. "The New Technology of the Mine." Fortune 107 (1983): 82-90.
Bronskill, Jim. "Mind Games: Another Woman Comes Forward to Claim the CIA used
Her as a Guinea Pig in Hideous Experiments." The Ottawa Citizen 13 Sept.
Budiansky, Stephen, Ted Gest, and Erica E. Goode. "The Cold War Experiment." US
News and World Report 24 Jan. 1994.
Daviss, Bennett. "Brain Powered." Discover 15 (1994): 58-66.
Delgado, Jose M.R. "Intracerebral Radio Stimulation and Recording in Completely
Free Patients." The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 147 (1968).
"Future of Mind Control, The." The Economist 25 May 2002: 11.
Glenn, John. "Human Research Subject of Protection Act of 1997, Bill S.193." United
States Senate. Introduced 22 Jan 1997.
McGonigle, Helen L. The Law and Mind Control. 15 Aug. 1999. S.M.A.R.T. 03 Nov.
Munro, Margaret. "Remote-Controlled rats Guided on Missions." National Post 2 May
New Possibility Thinkers Bible, The. New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas
Nelson Publishers, 1996.
"Open Your Mind." The Economist 25 May 2002: 77-79.
Ramesh, Elaine M. "Time Enough? Consequences of Human Microchip Implantation."
"Smart Glue: Brain Research." The Economist 15 Oct. 1994: 114-116.
Stacklin, Jeff. "Venture Targets 'the zone'; Gadget trains athletes how to Focus."
Crain's Cleveland Business 12 Aug. 2002: 1.
Stolberg, Sheryl Gay. "'Unchecked' Experiments on People Raise Concern." The New
York Times 14 May 1997: A1.