It seems the lab coats at DARPA are at it again, and this time they’re not just building some horrifying new robot for the battlefield. They’re after the precious memories in our brains. Until recently, they have successfully disguised their research as something a little more innocuous.
Last February, DARPA announced that they were working on a “black box” brain chip to install in the brains of America’s soldiers. Like the black box of an airplane, the device would record the memories of the victim patient.
This would ostensibly be used to help treat the memory loss of soldiers with PTSD, or perhaps even civilians with Alzheimer’s.
DARPA’s PTSD gospel continued last month when they were reportedly working on a different brain chip that would be used to monitor brain activity, as well as influence sections of the brain by stimulating them with electricity:
“DARPA is looking for ways to characterize which regions come into play for different conditions – measured from brain networks down to the single neuron level – and develop therapeutic devices that can record activity, deliver targeted stimulation, and most importantly, automatically adjust therapy as the brain itself changes,” DARPA program manager Justin Sanchez said.
According to DARPA, this research is all about helping our gallant soldiers as they return home, treating their PTSD so they can live normal lives again. How noble of them. They’re just oozing with flowers and rainbows at DARPA.
Not likely. Infowars reported on a recent MIT interview with Joseph Ledoux, a neuroscientist currently researching treatments for traumatic memories. After discussing several treatment options, the researcher was asked “Would a memory prosthetic be possible—something put into the brain to restore lost memories in someone with dementia or a brain injury?” Ledoux replied:
DARPA seems to be going full steam ahead on these kinds of technologies. What they plan to do is put chips in [the brain]. It would be like a prosthesis—instead of moving your arm, you’re fixing memory. I have no idea how they would achieve that.
Look, the ‘D’ in DARPA stands for DEFENSE. This think tank is the premier research arm of the military-industrial complex. They shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near someone’s brain. If this research still sounds harmless to you, you should know that the same research that involves repairing memories is directly related to the knowledge of erasing memories as well.
Shortly after asking Ledoux about the “brain prosthesis”, the reporter then asked “Messing with memory is a huge deal. It goes to the core of who we are. Treating PTSD would be wonderful, but isn’t it also possible to make people artificial Pollyannas?” Ledoux replied:
Or fearless monsters. There’s always going to be ethical implications. But we’ll just have to sort that out.
When we first published this work [on reconsolidation], someone wrote a commentary in the New York Times saying, “Let’s say you were a Holocaust survivor. You lived 50 years with these awful memories, and all of a sudden you’re erasing memories of the Holocaust. What would that do to your personality? It’s who you are now.” [After further research], the conclusion that we came up with is that a patient and therapist would have to slowly chip away at a memory to a level they were comfortable with. [And] the research so far suggests it reduces the zing, takes the emotional valence out of the situation, rather than erases the memory itself. The other side of that is you can also intensify memories…
This research is a backdoor to controlling our thoughts and memories, and nothing more. I feel bad for the victims of PTSD, and even though I can never truly feel the pain they carry with themselves every day, I sympathize as much as I can. But this is just wrong. Memories are painful for a damn good reason. You’re not supposed to forget these things.
Scars exist not only to heal, but to remind us of what happened. Pain in all of its forms is there to force us to address the cause of the pain. It’s the alarm system of our body and mind, telling us that something isn’t right. You should see what happens to people who can’t feel physical pain. It isn’t pretty.
I doubt erasing the agony of the mind at the flick of a wand is a good idea either. As debilitating as the pain can be, it exists to help us heal and grow. This isn’t something the military-industrial complex is interested in. So what are they aiming for with this research?
They want brain chips for the same reason they love robots.
Given the rapid growth of automated war machines in our military, I suspect they want to replace our soldiers at some point. They don’t want an army of human beings, for the same reason a factory might replace humans. They don’t want to deal with the sensitivities of working with people. Except in this case, it isn’t about cutting health insurance and payroll costs. It’s about creating an army of unthinking trigger pullers.
If anything, that’s what it has always been about. If there are any veterans reading this, you know what I’m talking about. Before the age of robotics, there was boot camp. The meat grinder. The institution responsible for bringing in individuals and cranking out yes-men that follow orders.
It’s proven to be rather successful, but it’s impossible to fully program some people. In the future, boot camp will be replaced with an assembly line that cranks out killer autonomous machines that will always follow the orders of the elite, no matter how heinous, and without discrimination.
Fortunately that day hasn’t fully arrived. Only a select few military jobs have been automated so far, and it may be some time before the military can truly replace their divisions with machines. Until that day arrives, DARPA has a solution. If they can find a brain chip, or even a pharmaceutical that allows them to erase the memories of our soldiers, they might have their robot army ahead of schedule. Think about it.
If you can erase the dreadful memory of a battle, you can have that soldier enter each fight with the same naivete each time. You could throw him into a thousand battles without breaking him. You could arm the most moral and righteous person imaginable, and all you’d have to do is convince him to kill once and erase the memory. Rinse and repeat until his parts wear out.
You could get soldiers to follow orders through anything, now matter how unethical, and have the benefit of erasing those memories so no reporter or family member ever hears about it. And like a robot, the soldier would never have the self awareness to know he’s become a fleshy automaton.
I confess I don’t know how this will all pan out, or how successful the research will be. But I do know this: DARPA may succeed in removing the memories from our brains, but they’ll never erase them from our souls.