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Mapping The Brain Via Optical Stimuli

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Eventually, I started reading one of the few books from P.F. Hamilton I did not yet read, namely "The Great North Road", without any big spoiler at some point in the beginning he describes the following procedure:
the person gets the eyelids forced open
then the person is pushed in some scanner machine (no real detail whether MRI or electrodes, but head not opened up)

then the person is shown a picture of things (i.e a dog, cat, house,etc.) alternated with an all white image.

the person suffers through this a lot of hours

then they ask the person "what did you see in that given event (event=something in the book I do not want to spoil anything)?"

the person has not to reply they can steal the persons' memory of the given event just by measuring what happens in the persons' brain after asking the question.


My question is, why exactly is this not feasible nowadays, it seems so straight-forward? Just because it is very hard to get a complete set of images to show to cover enough of possibilities? Just computing power, since this might be happening at the level of a lot of neurones firing in a given order? A current scanner resolution problem? Or we would not be able to discern associations a person makes with an image from the image recognition itself (eg. I see a dog(recognize it) and think of mine (association))? Anything else?

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I think the primary issue with this type of tech is that there is simply too much variation person to person in the reaction to certain materials. The order and manner of exposure to different concepts and objects likely affects their reaction to such things drastically. How would somebody with a phobia of insects deal differently with the presentation of an image containing their fear versus someone without? How could you identify the most core meaning of something? Can there be a distinction between interpretation and comprehension within the human brain? Can there not be one? Unless there is a defined pattern that can be used as a "base template" for the human psyche, there cannot be a dependable result when crossing language and cultural barriers. I say this because the most likely application of this tech would be law enforcement.

My question to you is this: 

Do you differentiate between a dog and a cow being food subconsciously? Do you differentiate between a wolf and a dog being a predator subconsciously? Does a man from Asia make those same distinctions? Does a man from Africa? Does a man from Europe?

Unless you could define those base distinctions within the brain you'd never be able to actually utilize the concept for anything more than a "guess" at whether the person knows something. Unless you could create relatively consistent profiles based upon the culture and origin of an individual, then I think it might be possible.

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NotBrad, you elaborated longer and better on one of the reason I found (I just said difference between recognition and associations). That can be circumvented though, by not wanting a general map, but one for a single, specific person (like in the book).

Oh I see, so you mean to say that if you show the individual sufficient relevant material while also mapping their brain, you could potentially "map" the particular individual's response to said relevant materials? I suppose that technology would be an amazing gold mine for justice enforcement and for crime prevention, so long as this system were never to become the "lie detector"(longest standing joke ever). So long as the device could only be used to attain a search warrant or an equivalent I the technology would greatly benefit us.

Also, could you elaborate a bit on why there is one specific person? I have not read the book(I generally avoid the dystopian future setting in literature), and am unsure as to the circumstances under which you refer. If lending specific context is a spoiler, I think you can add a spoiler to it.


I think it could possibly further the conversation


Edited by NotBrad
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Ok here it goes, but it is not really a dystopian future see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_North_Road_%28book%29

more like a crime-story set in the future with also aliens present (NB. I am only at page 392 of 1100) Actually read the synopsis there and then decide whether you want to read the spoiler



So Angela Tramelo is the only survivor of the whole floor where Bartram North has been murdered along with everyone else on the floor (obvious since I said the only survivor), around 9 people from the super-mega rich Bartram, to his prostitute/girlfriends. All where killed by a weapon looking like a hand with 5 knives/claws would (i.e. 5 sarp, knive entry points and then heart squeezed and sliced). Angela escapes and says it was a monster, which she said she fought off. When she gets caught, she gets a life prison sentence, but the CIA-equivalent (HDA in the book, Human defense alliance(I think)) then before taking her to prison take her to a Guantanamo-equivalent and torture her to get out information, because although convicted for the murder, no one actually believes she could have done it (not strong enough). When nothing works, eventually they put her in the machine for hours with eyelids forced open and show her a lot of images. Then they ask her simply "what did you see before running off? " and then they saw a Monster just like she described all the time. And like real CIA they put her back to prison anyway, since a scapegoat is needed. Until 20 years later a clone from Bartram is killed the same way...



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^^^Whoa, that's messed up.

So I see now, there certainly could be a technical application for this under the circumstances.


I see one issue with this though, depending on circumstances there is the small chance that a vulnerable victim like the one described might blame themselves for both what happened to their friends/family and for their current predicament. I think this could possibly cause them to slowly build up a fake scenario to justify their current predicament(aka torture/imprisonment). I think this scenario could pan out one of two ways, they either go completely insane under the stress knowing full well they did it, or they might cave and begin to question whether they were actually responsible for said crimes. This can be seen in many modern prisons today where individuals imprisoned for non-aggressive actions became more likely to commit crime due to exposure to those who actually are repeat offenders. I can only imagine the precarious mental state who quite literally watched their friends and family being murdered via the removal of their still-beating heart. Given those circumstances, and being surrounded by people convinced you did it and torturing you with the express aim of extracting a confession, I think that you'd eventually believe you'd done it simply due to the deterioration of your psyche leading to a severe mental breakdown, at which point you'd likely be willing to accept any reality to stop the pain a/o torturing. Hell I think under those circumstances you'd accept it willingly and forget that you didn't really do it. 

But I haven't read the book and don't know for sure that she was under such deplorable and inhumane terms as I have assumed, but imagine being in her shoes, would you even know for sure that you didn't do it given sufficient time, pressure, and evidence?

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