Given revelations of internet data surveillance what concerns should be raised about the possibility of brain monitoring devices?

All this week on the HSCT Communication Blog, we are answering questions put forth by the folks running the at the upcoming Suny-Broome 6th Annual Interdisciplinary Conference being held on April 4thand 5th at Suny-Broome Community College.
This week’s question was posed by the plot of David Eggers’ most recent novel, The Circle, and was not definitively answered by the end of the book.
Well, we here at HSCT have three primary concerns about brain monitoring devices. And the NSA didn’t make the top three.
  • The first is around marketing and the idea of “opting-out” rather than a mandatory “opt-in.”
The most annoying moment on the internet or social media is waiting for the commercial at the front of a YouTube video to load, with the countdown going before the viewer can “skip this ad.”

As the customer (you and I) have gained more control over blocking being sold to, marketers and advertisers have had to come up with more clever (and blunt) ways to compel our valuable time and attention, with confusing and frustrating results for all parties involved.

Now imagine if marketers had access to the most intimate space on the planet: Your private brain space.There would be no “option to opt-out,” even though all the legalese would say that there would be.

Which gets us to point number 2…

  • The second concern that we have is that increasingly, the desire to not participate in social communication is seen as a sign of social ineptitude at best and dangerous at worst.
Case in point: Whenever a school shooting happens, the first thing that the media does is breathlessly report whether or not the perpetrator possessed a social media account.
If he (and it’s usually a ‘he’) does, then there is breathless data mining that goes on in a search for pathology, motive, and aberration.

In other words, the nature of the aberrant act itself is no longer enough to create outrage; the lack of social participation is the driver for primary outraged responses.Which leads to concern number 3…

  • The third concern is that we have long sought—as individuals, societies and cultures—to control people under the guise of freeing them from Plato’s Cave.

Brain monitoring devices won’t be used to give us freedom, collaboration and connection.Instead, they will be used to take away freedom, encourage and inflame false fracturing and individualization, and destroy connections between people.

In other words, criminalization of thought will happen using the same powerful social sanctioning to illegality continuum that has banned smoking from restaurants, trans fats from NY City restaurants, and has gotten the White House cook to quit.
The inevitability of technological progress demands that we think about the ramifications of power and control, not only from government and corporations, but also by and from each other.
So, HSCT’s conflict engagement consultant,  Jesan Sorrells, will be presenting on the issue of online reputation maintenance in a world where virtue and ethics are not often addressed.
Register for this FREE event here http://www.sunybroome.edu/web/ethics and stay for the day.
We would love to see you there!
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)