The end of lying as we know it

India has become the first country to convict someone of a crime relying on evidence from a brain scanner that produces images of the human mind in action and is said to reveal signs that a suspect remembers details of the crime in question, reports the New York Times.

Psychologists and neuroscientists in the United States, which has been at the forefront of brain-based lie detection, variously called India’s application of the technology to legal cases “fascinating,” “ridiculous,” “chilling” and “unconscionable.”

It’s a short distance between “intriguing” and “creepy.”

Take the Army’s mind control project, which also uses the power of an electroencephalogram…

… improvements in computing power and a better understanding of how the brain works have scientists busy hunting for the distinctive neural fingerprints that flash through a brain when a person is talking to himself. The Army’s initial goal is to capture those brain waves with incredibly sophisticated software that then translates the waves into audible radio messages for other troops in the field. “It’d be radio without a microphone, ” says Dr. Elmar Schmeisser, the Army neuroscientist overseeing the program. “Because soldiers are already trained to talk in clean, clear and formulaic ways, it would be a very small step to have them think that way.”

  • brian

    Polygraphs are scary enough. We don’t need more “lie detectors” to missuse.

  • Elizabeth T

    The EEG has been around for decades.

    I wonder how this would apply to people who have neurological problems. Not mental incapacity, but rather things like epilepsy. EEGs are used as a simple, and old-fashioned, method of determining if someone has epilepsy. There’s a section of the read-out which looks different when the person has epilepsy. (I assume this would apply to other neurological disorders, but am not aware of it.) It’s been around since the early 1920s.

    I have epilepsy & have had EEGs done periodically. Could I game the system?

    It actually sounds like a scientifically unsound method, in no small part due to the vast variation in individuals brain functioning which can be detected this way.

  • doodman

    so what happens if you lie to yourself?

  • Bruce

    EEG’s are a crude method of measuring brain activity. Measurements are taken from small electrical charges at the scalp. Head and facial muscular movements register as well. “Innocent” twitches caused by neurological problems or just nervousness could throw a monkey wrench into any attempt to reliably interpret an EEG.

    I also suffer from epilepsy. My understanding is that when stimulated by strobe lights, a seizure may be induced producing a series of dramatic spikes — not like the subtle responses from an uncomfortable line of questions.