Mind control

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

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

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