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Electroceuticals and Mind Control

“Electroceuticals”, or therapies utilising electricity, are nothing new and range from the widely accepted defibrillator/ pace makers to the more controversial electric shock therapies like ECT sometimes employed to treat severe depression.

But a recent article in Nature argues that these are just a small, crude sample of what electroceuticals may be able to offer in the future. Universities and pharmaceutical companies are researching a wide range of therapies based around electrical stimulation, promising benefits (in the long term) as diverse as mind-controlled prosthetic limbs to a treatment for anorexia. Transcranial Electric Stimulation (TES) is delivering some promising results in depression and treatment of learning disabilities.

Not only is the research potential there, but it appears that the funding is too. Nature report that GlaxoSmithKline are funding 40 researchers to pursue research in this area, amongst other initiatives to kick start electroceutical development. And earlier this year, the US invested $110 million from 2014’s budget for the “Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative”. At the same time, over in Europe, work has commenced on a 10 year, billion pound ‘Human Brain Project, bringing together 135 institutions to try to map parts of the human brain via computer simulations.

We may be starting out on the track for the “holy grail” of neuroscience: strategic control of single neuronal activity. This is, apparently, one of GSK’s goals.

With that level of control, we could finally reach the realms of science fiction: where the mind and therefore the person is under external control. Freedom might be annihilated.

We would face confronting questions over authenticity and identity. There would be alienation between the pre-existing person and their subsequent brain activity.

Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange is a graphic illustration of a common objection to enhancement, the erosion of freedom. TES at present does not appear to represent a major threat to freedom, but it is one of a family of technologies that could one day be used for effective mind control.

Even without control via a third party, there is a risk of abuse. For example, some might choose to live in the “Experience Machine”. Nozick (1974) ‘ invented’ the Experience Machine and its basic premise has been used in popular and science fiction in various forms, including most famously in The Matrix. It allows an individual to dial up any life they like. The machine then stimulates the brain to give the experience of that life, be it President, despot, star footballer or novelist. All the while the subject is sitting in a chair.

Some might argue that so steep and slippery is this slope, and so bad is the possible bottom, that such research should never go ahead.

On the other hand, I have argued with Ingmar Persson that, under the voluntary control of the person whose mind is being affected, there could be opportunities to enhance our freedom and autonomy, rather than to diminish it. For example, individuals might be able to use this technology to enhance achievement of their goals, by staving off addictions or improving impulse control, or even enhance their own values, starting with what they believe to be good and right. This could be viewed as a way of increasing freedom, giving people a greater ability to act on their values and goals. Any interventions which improve impulse control improve the ability to achieve longer term goals and aims, and so enhance freedom and autonomy.

Furthermore, if freedom to remove desires for grossly immoral ends were possible, like murdering innocent people, and control was limited to that end, then the price might be worth paying in terms of promotion of welfare.

All of this is far from the technologies that we have today. But while such scenarios are at present science fiction, they speak to the profound potential power of this family of technologies and stress the importance of early, vigorous, wide ranging, deep and professional dialogue about the development and growing potential of technologies that directly modify the brain, and so the mind.

We may already be down a path to external control of single neuron activity in the human brain. As the neural firing pattern underpinning belief, desire, character, abilities, behaviour and emotion are better understood, and neurons can be precisely, brain activity can be controlled. Since brain activity is the basis of everything about our mental lives, control of neuronal electrical activity implies brain control which implies mind control. That is, we may already be down a path where the final destination is complete control of the human mind. How far we go down this path requires not science, but ethics.

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4 Comment on this post

  1. The book “Twelve Years in the Grave — Mind Control with Electromagnetic Spectrums, the Invisible Modern Concentration Camp”, authored by Soleilmavis Liu, provides the sound facts and evidence about the abuse and torture with voice-to-skull and remote electromagnetic mind control technologies.

    More information, Please visit:

    An interview with Soleilmavis Liu

  2. The book “Twelve Years in the Grave — Mind Control with Electromagnetic Spectrums, the Invisible Modern Concentration Camp”, authored by Soleilmavis Liu, provides the sound facts and evidence about the abuse and torture with voice-to-skull and remote electromagnetic mind control technologies.

    More information, Please visit:

    An interview with Soleilmavis Liu

  3. Well that’s an auspicious start to the comments!: a repeat post by someone who believes the government was torturing them with electromagnetic waves to put bad thoughts and voices in their head. Right…

    The key distinction here (in the blog post above, not in comments 1 and 2) is between things individuals freely choose to do, and things that are done to individuals without their freely-given consent. But even that distinction turns out to be insufficient.

    First, we should mention that there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that any possible “electroceutical” technology will ever be able to achieve complete “mind control.” The “one neuron” paradigm is a research abstraction rather than a technology template; thoughts do not correspond 1:1 to individual neurons, and the actual nature of consciousness and mind are still among the most difficult issues facing science. So here I’ll make the overt prediction that it will not become possible to use “electroceutical” technology to switch personality traits on and off like appliances in a house and instantly turn people into zombies. Reality will turn out to be far more subtle and insidious.

    For purposes of arguement, we can assume it may become possible to use “electroceuticals” to modify individuals’ emotional responses to stimuli. That relatively conservative goal, by itself, is sufficient cause for concern.

    Clearly we wouldn’t object to individuals choosing to modify their own brains/minds and behaviors. Individuals routinely do this through a wide range of means including social reinforcement, voluntary use of psychiatric drugs, and so on, and there is no issue raised about denial of freedom. Adding “electroceuticals” to the range of options changes nothing in this part of the equation.

    However we _do_ object vigorously to individuals being subjected to coercion of whatever kind, particularly when it moves beyond (to paraphrase Orwell) “thou shalt not” and “thou shalt” to the realm of “thou art,” invading the very innermost existence of the person. Here, adding “electroceuticals” to the mix does change something: it enables a repressive society to not only repress its dissidents, but to _convert_ them: change them into something they were not before; change the very nature of their existence.

    A more realistic concern than hypothetical totalitarianism, is the more subtle coercion of social pressure and its pervasiveness as a substitute for overt coercion by government. For example in the wake of Watergate, any government that attempted to mandate that its citizens carry combined audio/video recording and transmitting devices on their person, would have been overthrown in a popular revolt. Forty years later, anyone who doesn’t carry a “smart”phone is regarded by their peers as a Luddite. The purpose of achieving mass surveillance at a most personal and intimate level has been accomplished without resistance, by the marketing of shiny consumer baubles.

    In the USA at least, any devices that purports to “alter the structure or functioning of the human organism” is regulated as a medical device. One might think this a form of protection against consumer-level devices that enable people to fashion more boss-friendly personalities, the better to suck up to their “betters” for whatever “advantages” that might produce.

    However there is a loophole big enough to drive a lorry through, for “entertainment” devices. As long as no medical claims are made, for example a trans-cranial stimulator is sold as a “scalp tickler” for “entertainment purposes only,” the chances of running afoul of regulators are slim until the fad becomes sufficiently popular to have made large fortunes that in turn make regulation moot.

    In the end there is a far more effective way to change the personalities of the public. Just say m-e-d-i-a. Ask yourself, why do people flock to films that are described as inducing all manner of unpleasant emotions? The current blockbuster space movie _Gravity_ is described as being filled with “anxiety, terror, and claustrophobia.” Would you pay 7 to 10 Pounds to have those feelings? Millions of people apparently have done. “Tragedies” that leave audiences crying and miserable, do just as well at the box office. Music with lyrics that extol viciously sexist attitudes does just as well in terms of sales. Video games such as GTA that inculcate aggressive antisocial attitudes do even better. All of these have an effect on individual personalities, and collectively on the culture. Very often these effects are pernicious, such as the normalization of psychopathy (USA: “sociopathy”) and violence.

    There is no need for a wire in the brain, when a screen will work as well or better. But if wires in brains there will be, they will get there on the basis of clever marketing by Google or the like, and as with pervasive surveillance devices, anyone who doesn’t go along will be branded a Luddite.

  4. Hello,

    I live in Dallas, TX and in the low income areas you notice that most of the people talk to themselves. I lived in the area for about 1 year and started hearing voices. After doing non-stop research and being prescribed anti-psychotics the voices did not go away and the medication never worked. I am now 33 about to be 34 and not the target age range to be diagnosed as schizophrenic. The amazing thing about the voices are that a number of people in the neighborhood (3-6 people) casually stated that it was “Echelon”, a military synthetic telepathy being used incase we go to war. If you go to youtube and type in super soldier, mk ultra mind control, targeted individuals, and synthetic telepathy; you will notice how many people are starting to discover our government or some organized crime groups i.e.: shadow governments are starting to experiment with mind control at low income levels to see if they can complete some agenda. I know it sounds crazy because it is and it is happening now.

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