The upcoming film version of the ‘The Giver’ seems nothing like the book, but DARPA just gave a ton of money to two organizations aiming to create brain chips that would control our emotions. That seems eerily similar to the idea of “Sameness”, don’t you think?

Typically most people equate DARPA, or The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, as the division of the Department of Defense that creates robots that can do cool things like climb a ladder, operate a microwave or drive stick shift. However, recently DARPA gave grants to the Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco to develop electrical brain implants that would be used to treat psychiatric illnesses such as addiction, depression and borderline personality disorder.

Mental illness is emerging as a topic of national conversation, particularly in terms of the plight of US veterans. While talk therapy or medications can only do so much, the military wants to explore the options that neurological technology can provide. That is why the military turned to a subdivision of DARPA known as Subnets, or Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies.

These implants would be able to detect a bad feeling, let’s say a heroin craving, and send electrical impulses that would stimulate the nerves and stop this feeling from taking fruition.

Utilizing neurotechnology is not entirely new. The company Medtronic, besides sponsoring what seems like every NPR program ever, actually created something known as deep-brain stimulators to aid people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. The stimulators send electric pulses to the brain that can control body tremors. Similar devices have been used to treat people with critical cases of obsessive compulsive disorder.

In theory, electrical brain implants seem like they could prove very helpful to people suffering from debilitating mental illness. However, the fact that these chips could control one’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors feels like we’re about to go down a very slippery slope into dystopia. In the 1970’s, a neuroscientist from Yale University named Jose Delgado, aided by military funding, created implants called “stimoceivers” that were able to cause people to feel anxious or relaxed. However, Delgado was later accused of creating “totalitarian” mind-control devices.

As a result of that, er, tiff, DARPA became a little wary of how its Subnets program would look and has since employed an ethics panel to keep an eye on things. Let’s just hope Meryl Streep’s Chief Elder isn’t a member…

Source: Technology Review