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This post raises all sorts of interesting questions about President Obama’s proposal in his State of the Union Address to fund a project to map the human brain , a Human Neuron Project, if you will.

I’ll focus on this one:

If the research succeeded, it might result in better prosthetics or speech technology for paralytics. But it might also . . . [result] in abortion of affected children, not in the development of treatments for their diseases. Once the ability to diagnose the disease was combined with the legal right to get rid of the unborn child, there turned out to be little motive to pursue treatment. And the technology has been used, in some parts of the world, to get rid of girls as such, on a society-wide basis. In the same way, mind control projects could turn out to be much better funded than prostheses, depending on the government in power. No, this is not paranoia, it is just history as if the reality of human priorities mattered.

I might even go further, suggesting that science is not neutral about its uses. It is, rather, a project with the distinctive goal of human control of nature, including human nature. This “mind control” doesn’t have to be obviously insidious to be dangerous. Might we not, in the style of C.S. Lewis’ N.I.C.E., simply wish to make the human brain more efficient?

It always makes sense to remember that our instruments of knowledge and power are wielded by fallen beings.

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