The Conspiracy

7th January 2001

The following feature article appeared in the British Sunday Express newspaper on the 31st December 2000. Mind control has not so far been a part of The Enterprise Mission's conspiracy repertoire, but I thought the article was balanced and thoughtful enough to include on this website. Strictly speaking, the article deals with mass induced emotion control, which raises all kinds of moral dilemmas. After all, if we were all happy all of the time then there would probably be falls in the rates of murder, suicide and violent crime. Our self esteem would probably be greater and we might achieve greater things in our lives as a result. Of course this assumes that we all get to know about artificial emotion control and are consulted on its use. In fact a really wicked government (or agency) might actually find it more useful to secretly use such technology to keep us unsettled all of the time as it pumps out propaganda against target minorities or countries.


Mind-blowing Fear That's Out of Our Control

The terrifying prospect of a World where emotions can be manipulated by science is coming ever closer to reality

By Hector MacDonald


In San Francisco there is a man - clean shaven and polite - handing out flyers that begin: "I have been brutalised by EM mind control devices... I have been assaulted by electronic devices implanted in my head. Since then I've been used as a human lab rat..."

A few hundred miles south, Hollywood cranks out a never ending stream of movies that take electronic mind interference as a basic premise - the latest being The Sixth Day, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger's entire memory is captured when bright lights are shone into his eyes. Meanwhile the Internet abounds with paranoid theories on secret government plans to control the masses through their own brains.

A basic human fear of others messing with our minds has been with us for decades. But with the human genome project complete, the mind is the last great frontier of human science and many aspects of it - from consciousness to memory - are being probed in detail. But a crucial component of the mind is being ignored: our feelings - our emotions - hardly make it on to the map as far as neuroscientists and the conspiracy theorists are concerned.

Yet it is the emotions that drive our actions. Great palaces and space exploration programmes were built, not because it seemed a sensible thing to do, but out of pride and curiosity. Similarly, the worst of man's outrages - the Holocaust and Apartheid - derive from fear and hatred, not the rational brain.

A few years ago, I dreamed up a fictitious device that could measure emotions as the premise for my forthcoming first novel, The Mind Game. In it I explore the implications that such a device would have, particularly as a step on the road to artificial control of emotions. The possibility of making a population permanently happy - and therefore easy to govern - was disturbing; the idea that negative emotions could be broadcast in battle to shatter an enemy was even worse. But it was comforting to know that it was well within the realms of fiction.

Then I came across this statement in a report by the Scientific Advisory Board of the US Air Force: "One can envision the development of electromagnetic energy sources...that will allow one to prevent voluntary muscular movements, control emotions (and thus actions)..."

The words in brackets are crucial: the writers are acknowledging the direct link between emotion control and behaviour control. Of course, this is just a prediction but these are not people who make predictions lightly.

In fact, the US military has good reason to be thinking along these lines. One of its contractors, Silent Sounds, has patented an acoustic technology which it claims can analyse emotional encephalographic patterns ( electrical impulses recorded in the brain) and reproduce them to "silently induce and change the emotional state in a human being". Because this is a form of sound (in a range we can't consciously hear), it can be transmitted covertly in radio or TV broadcasts to an entire population. The technology was supposedly used in the Gulf War to hasten the surrender of Iraqi troops.

I n fact, electronic control of emotions is not new. Thirty years ago Dr Jose Delgado designed a device known as a stimoceiver that was wired to the emotion centres of the brain. The stimoceiver was never used on humans but it led to an impressive demonstration where Delgado arrested the charge of an irate bull, apparently by sending a calming transmission to block the animal's anger.

Very little unclassified work has been done on emotion manipulation since then but one experiment planned for 2001 is of real interest. Professor Kevin Warwick of the University of Reading has suggested that humans should turn themselves into cyborgs to keep up with ever more intelligent computers and has even implanted a chip in his arm that allows him to switch lights on just by walking into a room.

His next step towards cyborg reality is to insert a new chip into his arm, this time connecting it to the nerve fibres. The implant will send and receive signals to and from an external computer. Warwick hopes to record the neural impulses his brain produces when he is happy and then play it back when he gets depressed to return to a positive emotional state.

Having invented almost exactly that mechanism in The Mind Game, I felt quite uncomfortable hearing it might become reality in a British university. After all, however great it would feel to be happy all the time, emotion control in someone else's hands is a scary prospect.

One of the few scientists who might possibly know what he's talking about when it comes to the mechanics of emotions is Professor Jospeph LeDoux, author of The Emotional Brain. His view is simple: "If we developed sufficiently sensitive measures at the neuronal level we might be able to record feeling but we would never be able to play them back. Creating an emotion requires synaptic changes in so many areas of the brain that it would be impossible to recreate."

So perhaps we should carry on laughing at the conspiracy theorists. But it would be worth remembering the distinguished scientists who once used the word impossible to describe heavier than air flying machines, wire transmission of voice and flying to the Moon. Science has a worrying habit of achieving the impossible. And if you're feeling happy and contented about this, maybe you should wonder why....

The Mind Game by Hector McDonald is published by Michael Joseph, £10, on 25th January 2001.

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