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Friday, August 09, 2013

Transparency in the Future

I found this unsettling paragraph in a stack of dusty material meant for this blog. It's from a May 2011 Jackson Lears review of three Sam Harris books, including his well-known (and best-selling, which is redundant, I suppose) The End of Faith: Religion, Terror & the Future of Reason (2004).
Convinced that brain science has located the biological sources of “bias”—the areas of the brain that cause us to deviate from the norms of factual and moral reasoning—[Sam] Harris predicts that this research will lead to the creation of foolproof lie detectors. He does not say how these devices will be deployed. Will they be worn on the body, implanted in the brain, concealed in public locations? What he does say is that they will be a great leap forward to a world without deception—which, we must understand, is one of the chief sources of evil. “Whether or not we ever crack the neural code, enabling us to download a person’s private thoughts, memories, and perceptions without distortion,” he declares, the detectors will “surely be able to determine, to a moral certainty, whether a person is representing his thoughts, memories, and perceptions honestly in conversation.” (As always, the question arises, who are “we”?) Technology will create a brave new world of perfect transparency, and legal scholars who might worry about the Fifth Amendment implications are being old-fashioned.
Sounds like something that could appear in a Philip K. Dick story.

Note: This is NOT in reference to the famous Sam Harris who was my high school classmate.

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