The famous Pink Floyd song lyrics accusing the administration of brainwashing the public may not be far from the truth, in the future at least. Extraordinary breakthroughs in Neuroscience reveal what many scientists have long held, that the functioning of a person’s glands along with basic genetic makeup alone dictate their behaviour and hence if intelligently tinkered with, can produce desired results. Glands have for some time been considered to be responsible for the workings of emotion and behavioral patters in humans and lesser creatures, but the thought of harnessing their functioning and altering them has only recently occurred to researchers.
The revelation that their ‘elevated’ conscience and feeling is the working of mere bodily chemicals may be disconcerting for most laymen. However what may be even more disturbing is what this information may result in if left to the wrong hands. Even though actively altering a person’s behavioural makeup remains a thing of the future, neuroscientists even now believe that they have discovered a way to map the levels of a human’s brain chemicals, which accompanied with genetic tests would give a good idea as to the personality traits of the individual concerned. While scientists still mull over these new findings, certain sectors of the administration are already deciding how best to put them to use.
The team of researchers responsible for these findings is funded by the US Army itself, which wishes to find out how advances in neuroscience can contribute to military efficiency. Not only does the report made by the team of said researchers give clear indication of how neuroscience may be used to analyze a soldier’s efficiency, it also provides the hope, or rather the dread, that an even better weapon may await their benefactors: the dream of the perfect soldier itself.
The Army plans to use the new findings to assess which field of work individual soldiers may be best suited for. For instance the study shows that a soldier whose hypothalamo-pituitary axes (area of the brain handling stress response) is more reactive to stress will be less likely to complete their navy SEAL training. Similarly someone with high levels of brain serotonin would be calmer under pressure and be more competent to handle high pressure jobs or make a better sniper.
If the scientists did indeed manage to take this a step further and find ways of tampering with our chemical makeup to produce desired changes in personality or behaviour, the army would similarly wish to use it to its advantage. One of the angles of approaching their research has already been to find out whether it would be possible to create the perfect soldier: One not only shown to be perfect for his job, but made perfect for it. As the scientists note in their study, there are particular hormones such as Oxytocin which are believed to be connected to the feeling of empathy, love, etc. Now if human ‘weaknesses’ such as empathy could be effectively removed from a soldier’s system, one would be well on their way of creating the perfect killing machine, a boon to any army. Of course the ethical problems surrounding these actions would be many and obvious, from the plea of discrimination on genetic basis, which a soldier may levy if denied a position because of his brain chemicals alone, to the more serious one of brainwashing.
The ethical objections to the act of brainwashing another human being to suit one’s purpose may never be raised until the theory actually becomes reality and the science behind it is shown to work. However let us hope that even if the theory does turn out to be practicable war mongers may at least never get a chance to misuse it, or the future shall be an ominous one indeed. “We don’t need no mind control” anyone?