Mind control

| May / June 2006

The mere phrase gives us a jolt, in part because tales of switched brains, stolen brains, cyborg brains, and brains-in-vats have driven many of our favorite stories, novels, comics, TV shows, and movies. Whether we're reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or watching Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, we're riveted by characters whose heads have been literally messed with.

The concept is no longer just fodder for cinematic or literary intrigue. Scientists harbor great hope for the future of brain manipulation, and have already made strides toward helping people with head injuries, mental illness, and neurological diseases such as Parkinson's. In the race for cures, the neuroscience team is sprinting.

With all these attendant hopes and fears, it's no wonder that advances in brain science have fueled both excitement and anxiety, as well as heated debate. For every new application, there are both rosy and alarming scenarios.

The technology also raises deeper, more ephemeral questions concerning spirit and the self. Is our soul more than a mass of neurons? Can a scientist completely understand what's happening when a monk is meditating or trace the source of existential angst? Can -- or should -- medicine help us raise our consciousness?

There's no stopping science. Smart people in lab coats will keep trying to understand the brain and find new ways to alter, enhance, and heal it. As they work toward their goal, though, we all ought to be thinking about how their knowledge should be applied, with an eye toward the modern concepts of selfhood and individual rights. In short, we should be using our brains. -- The Editors

Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

Facebook Instagram Twitter