Outer Space and Mind Probes
More seriously, that nifty ad slogan from the movie 2010, “The sky is no longer the limit,” may finally be coming true.
Want a mind probe to see who's honest? Wired Magazine has an article in its current issue on a new wave of lie detectors based on MRI technology. (Alas, the direct link to the online version seems unreliable today. It is also available in old-fashioned paper)
Certainly there are legitimate reasons to have such devices. However, they can be misused, too, and not simply by the government. Some employers have applicants take lie detector tests, and it always struck me as a form of intimidation as much as a form of self-defense. (I once withdrew my application to work at a big box retailer that wanted to have my take a lie detector test before they gave me a job selling caramel corn.) I don’t think the intimidation motive is going to go away just because the tests become more accurate.
Still, what’s wrong with insuring honesty, many people will say? My answer would be that it is another blow to our ability to be left alone. I also think that a world in which honesty could be required on demand would be a rather, well, inhuman world. I believe it was Hannah Arendt who once suggested that lying was proof of free will. If she was right, then lying is closely related to what is creative within us.
PS Does any one know of a good history of lie detection?
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