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Will New Drugs Threaten Your Freedom of Thought?

Do you want to block traumatic memories from scarring your mind? Perhaps you do, but would you be happy if someone else did it for you? Or how about receiving marketing messages beamed directly at you in hypersonic waves? Mind control is getting smarter by the minute, according to this interesting interview in New Scientist that discusses whether drugs and other neurotechnologies will someday threaten the freedom of thought. Some of the topics covered inlude:

  • A slew of new pharmaceuticals called memory management drugs. Some of these aim to improve memory, others are designed to help dim or to erase them.
  • Could a future government say: "It's very important that you remember what you saw. We want you to take this drug at least until after you have testified in court."
  • Brain fingerprinting, a technology being tested by the FBI. It works by picking up the P300 electrical wave emitted by the brain (involuntarily) when the subject is shown images relating to a crime.
  • Hypersonic sound used for ads. The company that invented the technology is installing it in soda machines right now on Tokyo's streets. As you walk past, you'll suddenly hear inside your head the sound of the ice cubes dropping into the glass and the soda making that "psst" can-opening noise.
  • Pharmacotherapy. New drugs that keep illegal drugs from passing through the blood-brain barrier. One such drug is in Food and Drug Administration clinical trials. This "anti-drug" reduces the effects of smoked marijuana by up to 75 percent.

New Scientist April 22, 2004