Scientists are using lasers to directly control parts of primate brains - and not just the crude Ming the Merciless "Point a laser gun and tell them what to do" method, where initial apparent successes are overshadowed by the way your entire base blows up.
Instead, MIT scientists direct a tightly focused laser pulse onto neurons in primate brains, which is a wonderful way of phrasing it without actually saying "Sawed open monkey skulls." You can't just poke any old neuron with coherent light to make it dance, though, unless you're prepared to turn up the power and count "burning to death" as a very specific tango.
Selected cells are pre-infected with a genetically engineered virus which causes them to glow blue, and makes them susceptible to external light switching certain channels on and off. External light isn't normally an issue inside a skull, which is where the laser beam comes in. So we've got genetic engineering, mental lasers, and even brain cells which actually glow blue (which anything with a LED will tell you is the smartest and most modern color) - never mind revolutions in optogenetic neurology, this is what Lex Luthor's origin story would be if we was written today.
The technique's power comes from the highly selective infection and the tight control of laser beams, compared to previous chemical and electrical attempts at brain control - which might have been slightly more advanced than trepanation (aka "knocking a hole in the skull with a chisel"), but suffered similar side-effects of affecting all the cells around the target area.
Expect some spectacularly stupid scaremongering as news of this breakthrough leaks through the internet, with self-appointed "experts" barely reading through the headline before launching into anti-mind-control crusades. This technique could revolutionize fields such as depression and addiction therapy, but it needs injections, optics, and a little thing called direct access to your brain in a specialist facility. At which point they don't need to control you anyway - they're got you. Nobody's beaming control signals through your TV unless it's capable of emitting laser beams and burning right through your eye into the cortex - and let's face it, if a mysterious "they" had weapons like that you'd obey them, hypno-beams or not.
Instead, this incredible breakthrough will lead to great advances in hacking the most amazing, sophisticated system ever to exist: us.
Posted by Luke McKinney.
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