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1/9/2015
10:50 AM
David Wagner
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Geekend: Predicting Your Future By Scanning Your Brain

Is your entire future locked up in a few brain scans?

(Source: NIH)
(Source: NIH)

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Ariella
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Ariella,
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1/9/2015 | 4:17:48 PM
prediction
I know this is much more scientific, but it still reminds me of the false science popular in the 19th century --phrenology.
LeeB120
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LeeB120,
User Rank: Strategist
1/12/2015 | 11:15:07 PM
Re: prediction
1984...... we are geting closer and closer every day.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/13/2015 | 5:48:26 PM
Re: prediction
@Ariella- I totally get the phrenology comparison. And to a certain degree, we're not much farther along on the path than that. I think the only difference right now is that people who are doing it are being more careful. But it is difficult considering we're dealing with probabilities and potentials, not dead certainties.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
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1/9/2015 | 4:53:57 PM
Expectations
Imagine if you take a child to have of these scans and the results are ominous. The findings are shared with the parents. Now the parents are told the child has a high probability of being a murderer yet has never exhibited any such behaviours, in fact they are quite the opposite. How are the parents going to react? Are they going to raise the child as if the test never took place? WIll they be suspicious and careful? Will they be fearful? Would they be aggressive and try to raise the child in a religious type of environment?

I remember studying Thomas Szaz in college. He said if you treat someone like they are schizophrenic, they will act like one even though they may not have a mental illness. That is what i feel might happen with these tests. Parents might start treating their children differently based on these tests which might make the results a reality.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
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1/9/2015 | 5:24:38 PM
Re: Expectations
tjgkg,

Not far from reality. Thomas Szaz was quite right. Not going as far as treating someone as if he suffered from schizophrenia, but constantly repeating to someone that he is stupid usually convinces the person and lowers his self-confidence in a dramatic way, which obviously will affect his future and make his look as if he were stupid. Suggestopaedia is a quite powerful tool, usually used by NLP.

-Susan
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
2/21/2015 | 6:50:11 AM
Re: Expectations
Hi Susan, It is so important to treat children with kindness and encouragement. Starting life feeling worthless or not good enough is very difficult. The world can be a cruel place and kids need to feel that they can be successful and bring a lot of talent to the table. Not to the point like you see on some of those early American Idol auditions, but realistic encouragement. Because it only gets tougher as you grow older.
batye
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batye,
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1/12/2015 | 8:17:51 AM
Re: Expectations
@tjgkg interesting point, I could not agree more... as with human brain and body we still have a lot to learn....
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
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1/13/2015 | 5:52:41 PM
Re: Expectations
I remember studying Thomas Szaz in college. He said if you treat someone like they are schizophrenic, they will act like one even though they may not have a mental illness. That is what i feel might happen with these tests. Parents might start treating their children differently based on these tests which might make the results a reality.


@tjgkg- On the other hand, if you treat a child like they won't be a murderer their whole lives, paying special care to consider what activities they do and how you talk to them, maybe the grow up as not a murderer. 

But you are right. The problem with this is not unlike a Star Trek episode where you are sent back in time to change the future. You have no idea what your actions will do to change the timeline. In getting a couple of humpback whales, you may also be accidentally changing the future of the world by giving them a technology they wouldn't have invented without you.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
1/9/2015 | 6:08:18 PM
The end of crime?
David, 

Did you read the studies? I would like to read them all. I have plenty of questions about this. 

Then, this occured to me: What if in the future, this is applied to all babies as soon as they are born. According to the results, then they are immediately killed, or sent to a pre-determined special area where they a group of scientists will help them develop whatever skill they have impressed in the brain, because, why waste time?

And the ones who are immediately killed is for a logical reason: Why to feed a criminal when you can save the trouble to society, a society that by then will be as safe (?) as you can imagine thanks to this procedure. Wow! I love this story now for a fiction book. :D Thanks for the inspiration, Dave. :) I'll send you a signed copy. 

-Susan 
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
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1/9/2015 | 7:36:47 PM
Re: The end of crime?
I would personally love to take such tests, having studied psychological assessment testing extensively in graduate school, but before admininstering such tests you were obligated to give infomed consent to the subject so they knew what they doing, why they were doing it, and risks involved.  So performing testing like this on individuals not capable of providing informed consent opens up a pandora's box of ethical issues in my eyes.

The ability to use such knowledge to intervene to in order to improve an undesirable outcome is noble, but it is such a slippery slope.  
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
1/10/2015 | 3:12:08 AM
Re: The end of crime?
vnewman, 

I would like to take the tests, too. If I am not a criminal by now I doubt I will become one. But you never know, of course. 

"So performing testing like this on individuals not capable of providing informed consent opens up a pandora's box of ethical issues in my eyes."

Ahh, good point. :) Yes, I agree. But, in the case of children, if their parents give their consent those babies/kids are defenseless and may pay the consequences for the rest of their life. I am not familiar with the rights of kids; I assume kids have some rights that protect them from the bad decisions of their parents. If not, and f these kind of tests can take off, it would be wise to have some some conscious people drawing some lines on this matter. It's not simple, though. Then you can also question why strangers should have more power of decision over your own kids. :/

-Susan 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/13/2015 | 6:02:22 PM
Re: The end of crime?
@susan- for the most part, parents can give consent on behalf of kids for scientific research. And kids don't have protection in the cases where a parent makes a reasonable decision that goes poorly. For instance, if a child has a disease and the parent chooses to allow the child to take an experimental medicine to try to save the child's life, the child usually can't over rule the decision.

In fact, recently, a teenage girl asked to be allowed to die because she had cancer. The parents wanted her to fight on and try more potential cures. The girl actually sued her parents to let her die and the court ruled for the parents.

that said, in other cases, parents have denied treatment to a child (usually for religious reasons) and the government has ruled in favor of protecting the child. 

I guess if there is anything to learn from that, usually the government forces you to take your medicine. :)
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
1/14/2015 | 1:28:50 AM
Re: The end of crime?
David, 

The teenager's story is very sad. :( Most likely her pain was intolerable if she was ready to die. I believe the parents had a very selfish attitude thinking more about them losing a daughter than accepting the fact that their daughter couldn't tolerate the condition any longer. They should have respected her. The court also showed no respect toward the girl's will to end a painful and slow death. How sad. It's like if she were not the owner of her own body and wouldn't know what's best for her according to something only she can feel, and had no right whatsoever to decide on her own life.

The same I think about denying treatment to a child that could be saved otherwise.  

"And kids don't have protection in the cases where a parent makes a reasonable decision that goes poorly."

That's terrible. I said earlier that it's not easy to know what is right. I don't know how this is going to sound to you, but I believe in such cases, like the ones you mentioned, it's the child the one who should make the decision if the child has understanding of the situation; like the case of that teenager. 

Another thing is that each case should be taken individually instead of just following what the book says, which can work for some, but not for all. 

-Susan
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/14/2015 | 1:42:57 AM
Re: The end of crime?
@Susan- To be honest, I don't know enough of the details to have an opinion. But courts ar ein a weird spot. If a parent doesn't do everything to keep their child alive, they could be shunned or even imprisoned. Imagine if a toddler walked into the street and all a parent did was say, "hey, maybe you should come back here" and the child was hit by a car.

Now imagine a parent tried three cancer drugs and there were three more. 

I don't know. But I think that's the problem courts are under. If a parent still has a shot to save their child, society usually says thay should try.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
1/14/2015 | 1:59:44 AM
Re: The end of crime?
David, 

Yes, yes. I see your point. I agree that courts are on a weird position. But I still think they should have respected the teenage girl. I am assuming there were no more treatments for trying, and/or everything was just too much for her. I read another story recently about a child being hit by a car. Is that the same case? 

-Susan
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/14/2015 | 11:02:22 AM
Re: The end of crime?
There were treatments left. That's the problem. But the horrible thing about cancer drugs is sometimes in the moment they feel worse than the disease. A lot of people suffering from cancer feel better (in the short term) without their medicine. It is just an awful disease and I suspect we can always assume some tragedy around it until we find a a true cure.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
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1/14/2015 | 10:15:09 PM
Re: The end of crime?
David, 

There were treatments left, but did it mean she had a chance, or was it more something to extend her suffering for a bit longer? That's the true thing to look into. Because, I am again assuming that if she was ready to die is because she was going to die anyway anytime soon, treatments or not treatments. Probably tolerating those treatments had become too much for her. 

I am assuming if she would have had a chance of survival --which is rare in cancer cases-- she would have kept fighting. Extending her suffering is not giving her quality of life. Forcing her to tolerate her condition is even worse, physical and psychologically speaking.  

If you have a link to this case, I would like to read more about it. So far, I am just assuming the reasons why she preferred to die. I would like to know the facts behind it.

A cure for cancer might come in the form of nanobots implanted into the patient, which could destroy the first cancerigenous cells as soon as they appear, not allowing them to expand to vital organs. Medicine doesn't seem to have advanced too much in cancer treatments. 

-Susan  
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/15/2015 | 1:07:24 PM
Re: The end of crime?
@Susan- While I love the thought of nanobots, I still think the vaccine approach or increased early detection is goign to win out. There's no reason we can't train the immune system to do what we're planning on teaching those nanobots to do. And probably faster. Our immune system is amazingly good at adatping and killing things. 

Also, sending genetic signals to cancer cells to behave like "normal" cells has promise, too. I think we've got a better chance of doing either of those faster than inventing nanobots and teahcing them to kill only cancer cells.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2015 | 10:44:09 AM
Re: The end of crime?
Well, I do believe that this is science but I doubt about the reliability of the test. Can it predict all possible criminals? If someone is predicted to be a potential criminal, what we should do? Arrest him even if he did not commit any crime?
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/16/2015 | 11:34:53 AM
Re: The end of crime?
@li tan- No, not at all. And it doesn't claim to. At best, what it can do is identify the characteristics of the brain that makes certain crimes possible-- like impulse control. The goal of the study was to simply make better parole decisions by seeing what were the characteristics of people who stayed out of jail a second time and who came back. There's a long way to go before being predictive. But the study was already more accurate than some existing methods we use. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/13/2015 | 5:57:25 PM
Re: The end of crime?
@vnewman2- You're right. And I feel like I'd need a PhD in psychology and another is statistics to even begin to give informed consent and then understand the results. :)
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
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1/12/2015 | 9:13:52 AM
Re: The end of crime?
LOL sorry Susan but you'll have to go to the back of the line. There are a number of sci-fi short stories that are based on this very idea - that we use science for the purpose of the betterment of mankind. It also asks the reader - are the methods and outcomes truly moral? I recall a short story where a boy is being tested and you are given the impression that if he tests too low it will be bad. Well, the child scored too high and was killed just the same, in the name of equality.

I often make the case on many sites and forums - we live in a fascinating time when we have an explosion of technology. However, just because we CAN do something doesn't mean we SHOULD. Technologists and well-meaning people look blindly at the possibilites of technology without factoring in the reality of humanity. There are a lot of really bad, evil people in this world who will turn the postitive into a negative. Anything that can be used can also be misused.

Also, there are laws that are SUPPOSED to protect children from the bad decisions of their parents, but only in the most extreme situations (abuse, neglect, etc). There are no laws that do anything to children whose parents raise them with bad morals, or horrible money management skills, or lack of structure. Again, another road we probably don't want to go down...
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
1/13/2015 | 11:18:02 AM
Re: The end of crime?
GAProgrammer, 

I am glad you had a good laugh with my silly idea. :) And yes, technology is advancing at a fascinating pace and the bad guys seem to be always around ready to see how they can make something horrible out of what was an idea intended for good. 

I also agree with you on your point that it's not necessary use something just because it is available if the outcome is not going to precisely be something positive. 

A couple of days ago, I read a story of a girl and her brother who were sentenced to prison for life first at the ages of 13 and 12. Then this was changed to an 18 year-sentence, I believe. The kids had been suffering from sexual abuse for years by a member of their family, in desperation they killed their father's girlfriend. The girl will be released this year at the age of 30 something. Her brother in 2017 because he tried to escape once. What kind of life awaits for them in a world where they never had the chance to know? A really sad and injust story. And I remembered about this article we are discussing now. Maybe you read about the case. It happened in the US. 

I wondered what would have happened if their brain would have been scanned when they were babies. Were they already predestined to murder someone being kids? Or was it more the result of the unfortunate life they had before they could even finish school? 

I thought it was really unfair to put those kids in jail on top of all the abuse they had suffered already at such a young age, with no experience of life whatsoever. 

-Susan

 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/13/2015 | 6:05:23 PM
Re: The end of crime?
@GAProgrammer0 to be fair to the scientists in question, I don't believe any of them are offering tests right now for anyone who wants them. I just suggested that it might be possible in the future. So it may be that all we are doing is learning about the brain and there never will be tests to determine these things. But we have GMO food so I assume one day we'll have GMO babies. Or at least people who want to try to change the babies they've got.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
2/3/2015 | 11:17:54 AM
Re: The end of crime?
@GAProgrammer interesting to know, I could not agree more... but where we should draw a line...??? or should we??? :)
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/13/2015 | 5:55:43 PM
Re: The end of crime?
@Susan- I couldn't read them all. I started to and I quickly fell down a rabbit hole of really interesting stuff. i had to stop myself in order to file a story. That said, I've actually covered a few in the Geekend before, including one on drawing and math abilities. 

The thing is that each one has strengths and weaknesses. the size of the test varies greatly based on funding. The choice of what to compare it to matters and some fields are more advanced than others. But if you've got time, the bibliography to this article is one of the best you'll ever see for the topic. 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
1/14/2015 | 1:05:30 AM
Re: The end of crime?
David, 

I remember the one on drawing and math ability. Yes, I'll put them on my reading list. :) 

-Susan
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
1/12/2015 | 5:41:39 PM
Re: Geekend: Predicting Your Future By Scanning Your Brain
This is a topic that's on my mind farily often. As you guys have pointed out, the idea that we shouldn't use technology to a given end just because we can is as old as time itself and a popular topic in sci-fi; At the same time, Dave makes a very important point that the age where this is reality rather than fiction may be coming sooner than we think; in fact, it may already be here. I find myself thinking of those data tablets in Star Trek - the tablet computers we carry around every day would seem to have a lot more functionality already, and Star Trek is supposed to be quite a ways off yet. In other words, the decisions we make on these brain scans now (or soon) may have a more direct correlation to the final outcome than we realize.

I tend to err on the less-fatalistic side of the equation, but then again, maybe that's just because I have a neuromarker that's telling me to :). In all seriousness, There is a conundrum here, and it's one we're facing a lot these days. Should we really make self-driving cars? Is it really healthy to binge-watch five seasons of a show on Netflix in one day? This is basically the pinnacle of that  'can vs. should' question. Examples about assigning children jobs at birth are extreme but relevant. On a practical note, I'd like to raise the question of just how definitive and objective current tests are. Dave mentions a 'high' or 'low' activation rate in a certain part of the brain - this seems a little more open to interpretation than, say, looking for a certain concentration of a substance in the blood. Are we really ready to put that part of the equation in doctors' hands yet? Additional food for thought.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
1/12/2015 | 11:42:08 PM
Re: Geekend: Predicting Your Future By Scanning Your Brain
I think there are other factors to consider if we will start scanning prisoners's brain to determine whether they will commit a crime after they leave prison.  I think this technology still needs some work.  Humans have a hard time predicting the future. Even futurists who suppose to be their job predict how society will change get it wrong.  How about having brain marker than would determine whether you will develop alzheimers or parkinson disease?
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2015 | 4:41:31 PM
Nature vs. Nurture
The way the brain works can determine a lot of things about you, but with experience an alcoholic can be in recovery a learning disabled child can still read and be good a math. Nature is who are genes make us, Nurture is how the world changes us. For evidence of this look at studies that focus on identical twins seperated at birth. At birth they had the same brain but often go in different directions depending on the love and care they recieve while going through different life experiences. This brain scan technology could have great benefits to help people use their best gifts and mitigate their worst faults if we use it wisely.
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