Science

The day the lights go out and the trucks stop running

What would happen if some sort of major national emergency caused a massive transportation disruption that stopped trucks from running?  The next time you talk to a trucker, please thank them for their service, because without their hard work none of our lives would be possible.  In America today, very few of us live a truly independent lifestyle, and that means that we rely on the system to provide what we need.  Most of us take for granted that there will always be plenty of goods at Wal-Mart and at the grocery store whenever we need more “stuff”, and most of us never give a second thought to how all of that “stuff” gets there.  Well, the truth is that most of it is brought in by trucks, and if the trucks stopped running for some reason the entire country would devolve into chaos very rapidly.

Earlier today, I came across a quote from Alice Friedemann that detailed what we would be facing during a major national transportation disruption very nicely…

Within a week, in roughly this order, grocery stores would be out of dairy and other items that are delivered many times a day. And by the week, the shelves would be empty.

Hospitals, pharmacies, factories, and many other businesses also get several deliveries a day, and they’d be running out of stuff the first day.

And the second day, there’s be panic and hoarding. And restaurants, pharmacies would close. ATM’s would be out of money. Construction would stop. There’d be increasing layoffs. Increasing enormous amounts of trash not getting picked up, 685,000 tons a day. Service stations would be closed. Very few people would be working. And the livestock would start to be hungry from lack of feed deliveries.

Then within two weeks, clean water supplies would run out. Within four weeks to eight weeks, there wouldn’t be coal delivered to power plants and electricity would start shutting down. And when that happened, about a quarter of our pipelines use electricity, and so natural gas plants wouldn’t be fed natural gas and they’d start shutting down.

There is so much infrastructure that we take for granted that would suddenly become very vulnerable in this type of scenario.  There are countless numbers of workers out there that never get any glory that do the hard work of maintaining our nuclear power plants, our natural gas pipelines, our electrical grid, etc.  If they suddenly were not able to do their jobs, the consequences would be absolutely catastrophic.  The following comes from Tess Pennington

They rarely mention the dozens of nuclear power plants that litter the United States. If no one is there to operate them, how long before they melt down and bury millions of survivors under a radioactive cloud?

Then there are the 12,000 facilities around the country that store large quantities of toxic or flammable chemicals, and reside close to residential areas. 2,500 of these sites contain chemicals in quantities that, if a catastrophic accident were to occur, could affect 10,000 to 1 million people each. And let’s not forget the 2.5 million miles of oil and gas pipelines that can be found in every state. They suffer hundreds of leaks and ruptures every year, and are much more likely to explode when they aren’t maintained. That detail seems to be conveniently forgotten by post-apocalyptic films.

And finally, most post-apocalyptic movies will forget to mention what happens when there aren’t any functional fire departments. Aside from the obvious consequences, like whole neighborhoods routinely burning to the ground, who’s going to put out landfill fires that are occasionally radioactive?

For most Americans, a major national emergency of this magnitude may seem unimaginable right now.  But the truth is that it isn’t difficult to see how this kind of scenario could happen.  The Yellowstone supervolcano is becoming increasingly active, a single large asteroid could change all of our lives in a single moment, a crippling pandemic could bring normal life in America to a complete standstill, a terror attack involving weapons of mass destruction would spread panic and fear like wildfire, and a historic earthquake along the New Madrid fault, the Cascadia Subduction zone or any of the major faults in California could literally change the geography of our entire continent.

In addition, a massive EMP burst from a nuclear weapon or from the sun could fry our power grid and send us back into the stone age in a single moment.  This is something that I have written about extensively, and those that want to minimize this threat simply don’t know what they are talking about.

And an electromagnetic pulse is not even required to cause very serious problems with our electrical grid.  For instance, just consider what happened in Ukraine toward the end of last year

On December 23rd, 2015, the Prykarpattyaoblenergo power distribution station in Ukraine was hit by a carefully coordinated cyber-attack that was months in the making. The technicians lost control of their cursors as they watched hackers open breakers and take circuit after circuit offline, plunging 230,000 residents into darkness.

The hackers took backup power of the stations offline, plunging the electrical workers into darkness too, and worse yet, they even rewrote the low-level firmware that controls the electrical transformers. The attack had come after months of careful infiltration and planning by a dedicated team of elite cyber-warfare specialists and the result was devastating.

Even months later, technicians struggled to regain full capacity in the electrical grid due to the overwriting of firmware. With Ukrainian moves to nationalize power companies, it is possible that the powerful and Putin-connected Russian oligarchs who own large parts of Ukraine’s infrastructure were sending a message: we can shut down the system anytime we want.

The truth is that we are far more vulnerable than most of us would like to admit.

So what would you do if “normal life” suddenly came to an end and you no longer had access to food, water or power?

How would you and your family respond?

Hopefully you would continue to act in a civilized manner, but history has shown that many people would not.

Desperate people do desperate things, and it would only take a matter of days for some people to become violent

Before long, getting mugged or being a victim of some type of crime is as unpredictable and as common as a car accident. You’ll realize everyone in the neighborhood has now beefed up security on their homes. All your family, friends, and coworkers have experienced a mugging, carjacking, or worse.

You’ll have no choice but to accept this new way of life and count on basic safety measures (a form of passive denial) or further learn to defend yourself and remain in a constant state of alert (a very stressful state over time). It’s difficult emotionally, mentally, and physically to remain on high alert 24/7 for any length of time. Most people will revert to a form of passive denial until the next incident happens to them or a family member.

And even though things may seem relatively stable for the moment, concern about what is coming is one of the factors that has led an increasing number of Americans to arm themselves.  According to a brand new study from the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of all American homes now have a gun.  Just two years ago, a different study found that number was sitting at just 31 percent.

The way that we are living our lives right now will not last indefinitely.

At some point a major national emergency will strike, and when that day arrives we could suddenly be facing major power grid and transportation disruptions.

Are you prepared for that?

If not, you might want to do so while you still have time.

Via Economic Collapse

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Science

Russian government warns citizens to stay away from ‘evil game’ with ‘end game connections’ – Is this the biggest trojan horse in history?

The bizarre new story coming to us out of Russia from Gizmodo tells us that 22-year old video blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky has been detained for two months before trial for ‘inciting hatred’ and ‘insulting religious feelings’ by playing Pokemon Go inside of the historic Russian Cathedral seen in the photograph with Sokolovsky below. You can also hear about this story from RT in the first video below.

Still facing up to 5 years in prison for his ‘crimes’, the story of Sokolovsky is just the latest coming to us from Russia about this ‘game’ that quickly set the world on fire with record downloads but has Russian authorities and religious leaders claiming it is ‘evil’. As was reported on Kotaku, Russian officials are flipping out about Pokemon Go and believe that it will have a destabilizing effect upon their society so they are developing their own, “more patriotic” version of it. This story from Foreign Policy tells us that according to one Russian lawmaker, people hunting down ‘Jigglypuff’ and ‘Snorlax’ through Pokemon Go make him “feel like the devil has arrived and is trying to tear our mortality apart from the inside“.

While at first the bizarre story of Sokolovsky seems to some to paint the Russian nation as even more tyrannical than the West has suddenly become in its drive towards system collapse and global dictatorship, when we learn the reasons why Russia is making these moves and is so infuriated by Pokemon Go, it all makes a bit more sense. While jailing a blogger will do nothing to stop the madness behind the game, it’s clear we’re watching something sinister unfolding. As we’re told in the final video below, we now have 100% proof that Pokemon Go has an ‘end game’ connection to DARPA, the CIA, the illuminati and the New World Order. And according to one Russian user, the rules of the game are quite simple:

“Pokemon is simple and clear: you find them, you collect them and then you make them fight one another.”

Sounds like something right out of the ‘nwo’ playbook: find them, round them up and make them go to war.

russian Cathedral
All News Pipeline

According to the Russians, Pokemon Go is one of the greatest spy tools to ever emerge from the West via Niantic, a company with links to the CIA and is being secretly used to gather intelligence on a ‘colossal’ scale.

Niantec CEO John Hanke created Keyhole in 2001 – which was later bought by Google. Most of the money used to create Keyhole came from the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency and the CIA. Pokemon GO is the pinnacle of Hanke’s intelligence gathering career thus far. He is a New World Order intelligence operative whose career has been creating ingenious ways to spy on unsuspecting citizens and siphon the information back to intelligence agencies.

The ultimate ‘sheep-in-wolves-clothing-trojan-horse’? We’re told with the launch of this monstrous game, the CIA has effectively recruited millions of unaware and distracted people to work as intelligence and surveillance operatives, gathering massive amounts of information that was previously extremely time consuming and expensive.

Just pretend you’re a govt agency that wants to be everywhere at once, to see everything going on in any place and every place. Your endless surveillance cameras on every street corner and store and drones in the sky don’t quite cut it so what better way to do so than to send an army of totally distracted and completely ignorant ‘Poke-people’ wherever you want them to go with two cameras and a microphone on nearly every phone gathering data for those ‘in control’ of the phones?

Hey Bob, we need to see inside of ABC store on West street” the order is shouted out from the ‘X’ intelligence agency operative to the other op who quickly chimes back, “you got it, Pikachu’s heading there now“…to be quickly joined by their unpayed staff of countless mindless morons following the non-existent ‘augmented-reality’ creatures wherever they go.

Players of the game can be sent on a chase for a rare Pokemon inside of almost any location such as a park, tourist attractions or almost any public building in the world, including the Kremlin where Pokemon have been found according to this story, and immediately, ‘Poke Spies’ have immediate access to whatever intelligence the phones of a countless number of ‘Poke Sheep’ are seeing and hearing and collecting for them.

Russians have already been found playing Pokemon Go in Red Square and the Kremlin has warned players to stay away from Vladimir Putin’s residence as well as from government buildings. China also fears that players of the game could unwittingly give up highly secretive information via the process of elimination or if someone is actually playing the game inside of military bases or other government buildings and also warns the game is a ‘trojan horse’ for the US and Japan. Iran has also already banned the game due to security concerns.

As we’ve previously reported on ANP, people have been hurt, killed, robbed, fallen off cliffs and crashed into cop cars in their mindless pursuits of a computer screen creature that doesn’t even exist in real life. Taking absurdity to absolutely new levels while giving spy agencies unprecendent access to huge amounts of data, officials in the state of Maryland have called the game a possible public safety hazard with private homes and private institutions also being ‘invaded’, quite literally putting those who want nothing to do with the game in the path of those trying to find a ‘rare monster’ and turning neighborhoods into nightmares.

If they’re collecting all of this data, why aren’t they using it to round up those who are true threats to US national security or do ISIS jihadists simply not play Pokemon? If they’re not using this intelligence to gather information on those who want to slaughter us, who are they gathering the information on? It might be easier for some Americans to accept such activities if they knew that jihadis were being rounded up using the information but we haven’t seen any of that yet that we’re aware of.

Is Pokemon Go the biggest trojan horse in history, giving ‘colossal access’ to ‘new world order’ spies and operatives across the globe and quite literally, ‘the devil’s arrival to tear our morality apart from the inside’ as the Russian lawmaker warned? While very disrespectful, should this Russian vlogger be getting prison time for such an offense? Do any ANP readers have family or friends or co-workers who are players of this ‘game’? If so, we’d love to hear any experiences that you’ve had or noticed with others ‘fascination’ with Pokemon Go that you think our other readers would find interesting in the comment section below.

Via All News Pipeline

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Science

Why Government always gets cybersecurity wrong

Otto Von Bismarck is thought to have said that if you want to respect law and sausage you should watch neither being made. Charlie Mitchell supports this view in his recent book Hacked: The Inside Story of America’s Struggle to Secure Cyberspace by providing an in-depth, comprehensive history of cybersecurity policy during the Obama administration. The chronological account explores interactions between the White House, bureaucracy, special interests, and Congress. Mitchell considers several points of view and gives the reader a thorough understanding of competing perspectives on issues such as privacy and regulation.

This is a historical work, not a theoretical one (Public Choice Theory is never mentioned), but it is of great value to Public Choice scholars because it explores issues at the heart of the discipline, such as how legislators, bureaucrats, and special interests respond to the incentives they face and how policy gets made (or not made) in light of these competing incentives.

John McCain asked for a cyber committee to be created, until he took control of a committee that dealt with it.

The Politics of Cybersecurity Legislation

The articulation of a cybersecurity policy began in earnest towards the end of the Bush administration, with the Obama White House picking up where they left off. However, after congress failed to pass legislation dealing with the issue during his first term, President Obama issued an Executive Order in February 2013 calling for (among other things) a non-regulatory approach to cybersecurity based on collaboration between the government and technology industry.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was tasked with developing a framework of “voluntary standards” for cybersecurity in collaboration with the tech industry.  This was done through a series of conferences where representatives from the two sides met at various college campuses across the country to hash out what such a framework might look like. During and after this process, other government agencies pursued cybersecurity within their various spheres of influence, some successfully (Federal Communications Commission), some unsuccessfully (Department of Homeland Security).

A constant theme throughout the book is Congress’s struggle to pass significant cybersecurity legislation. The issue seems to constantly be before congress during Obama’s second term, but it is frequently kicked to the curb by partisan fighting, elections, government shutdowns, congressional recesses, and other legislative concerns. Cybersecurity legislation is finally passed in the house in April 2015, and in the Senate in October of the same year.

Tech industry representatives distrust government agencies and are afraid that the “voluntary” framework process will quickly devolve into harsh regulation.

As mentioned earlier, the story of cybersecurity policy during the Obama administration is ripe for Public Choice analysis because it is a story of incentives and self-interest on the part of the legislature, special interests, and bureaucracy.

Congress has very few incentives to deal efficiently with the cybersecurity problem. Doing so would most likely require the creation of a cybersecurity committee. This, however, is highly unlikely because, as retired Rep. Jane Harman says, “people in [Congress] earned their power through committee positions.” Cybersecurity is currently under the jurisdiction of several different committees, none of which will be willing to give up power or influence over such an important issue.

Mitchell shows this by mentioning that John McCain asked for a cyber committee to be created, until he took control of a committee that dealt with it. Additionally, Hacked shows how the perverse incentives of party politics and re-election push legislators to shortsighted policies. Cybersecurity legislation is repeatedly passed over because of looming elections, government shutdowns, squabbles between Republicans and Democrats, the budget, immigration, and the Iran nuclear deal. This essential element to national security that should be rather straightforward is constantly left in the hopper with little hope of floor time because politicians are busy with more “pressing” matters.

The Role of Special Interests

Special interests loom large in the discussion of any significant piece of legislation and cybersecurity is no exception. Tech industry representatives distrust government agencies and are afraid that the “voluntary” framework process will quickly devolve into harsh regulation. They and other interest groups make their voices heard throughout the legislative process. The two competing special interests seen in the book are those arguing for privacy protection such as the ACLU and the Center for Democracy and Technology and those representing the cyber industry such as the US Chamber of Commerce.

Indeed, DHS only took on cybersecurity because it “saw cyber as a potential ‘win’ area.”

To protest the Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA) privacy advocates sent faxes to senators urging them to vote against the bill (they claimed to be using 1984 technology to protest a bill reminiscent of “Big Brother” in the George Orwell classic). On the other side of the issue, industry representatives began a “myth-versus-fact” campaign to show that CISA wasn’t a surveillance bill. Both sides end up fighting not for the best policy but for the one that benefits them the most.

The Expanding Footprint of DHS

The federal bureaucracy is an excellent example of the Public Choice principle that public actors respond to incentives the same way private ones do, namely that they are concerned with their own self-interest. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is seen as unwilling to cooperate with industry (it has no incentives to do so), and did little to change this reputation. DHS, which has more cybersecurity responsibilities than any other federal agency has many other concerns besides cyber, and because of this, is not incentivized to give the issue the attention it deserves.

Indeed, DHS only took on cybersecurity because it “saw cyber as a potential ‘win’ area.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides an example of a bureaucratic agency trying to enlarge its footprint. The FTC sees itself as protecting consumers from “unfair and deceptive [business] practices.” It sought to extend this power into the cyber realm and had its authority to regulate and punish companies affirmed by two 2015 court cases. Security companies took advantage of this and in a “bootleggers and Baptists” scenario created NIST framework-based products asserting that because of the FTC’s newfound powers, cybersecurity was mandatory.

However, Hacked does provide one example of public and private incentives aligning, namely, the NIST framework creation process. NIST has several institutional advantages; it is small, but well respected and “it doesn’t provoke jealousy or underhanded attacks from other government agencies because it’s not a regulator and has no interest in bureaucratic turf wars.” It was likely unable (and had few incentives) to push the private sector around.

This, as well as the fact that the framework it created was to be voluntary and the result of a collaborative process helped to create a system where the government and the private sector worked together. The non-regulatory nature of the program also meant that the threat of government regulation could incentivize companies to use the framework.

Mitchell closes the book with musings on the future of cybersecurity in the United States. Restructuring the bureaucracy or congress would better equip the government to deal with the problem and questions still remain about how to encourage companies to invest in cybersecurity and whether the government or the private sector will drive innovation. He states that policy cannot be reactionary, it must be adaptable to changing circumstances and it must be made with the goal of threat reduction because this problem is not going to disappear. His closing comments provide needed insight into a complicated field, and his book helps scholars see Public Choice Theory in action.

Via FEE

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Science

The deep state institutions that couldn’t care less who you vote for

The American people are again fully enthralled in the puppet show of national elections, and while arguments grow ever-more heated and partisan, the fact remains that no matter which way we vote there will remain a deeper state which represents the real and unchanging forces driving the destiny of this country and of the world.

Even veteran politician’s such as the constitutionally-minded Ron Paul have publicly stated that your vote doesn’t matter as long as the ‘Deep State’ continues to exist, living off of funds syphoned from tax payers and scuttled into covert, black-ops and secret budgets.

The elections don’t matter. This is a ritual that we go through… My belief is that the control is the Deep State, and people have to realize that.” ~ Ron Paul

Former Republican U.S. Congressional aide Mike Lofgren who retired in 2011 after 28 years as a Congressional staffer defines the Deep State as follows:

“It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department. I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street.” ~ Mike Lofgren

These are the institutions, agencies and ongoing programs that are above the law, beyond scrutiny and operating in near total secrecy. They truly couldn’t care less who the American people vote for come this election day as their powers are now so fully entrenched that in spite of whichever political puppet sits in the White House they will still be able to muster the funds and authority to continue on with their subversive, anti-democratic agendas.

Topping the list are the following major players:

1. Intelligence AgenciesBusiness Insider reports that US intelligence community is comprised of 17 discreet agencies that operate with enormous budgets and incredible secrecy, bringing total surveillance and total information awareness to bear on the people of earth.

Of the 17 agencies, some of the most prominent and most active include the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), none of which will be adversely affected by either candidate’s policies.

“Oversight of these agencies generally falls to the Department of Defense or Congress, leaving the average citizen with precious little knowledge of how they operate.

Funded by largely classified budgets, it’s difficult to assess how much the U.S. annually spends on these clandestine operations, but one 2012 estimate pegs the cost at about $75 billion.” [Source]

2. DARPAThe Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is the scientific vanguard of the Deep State, and the world’s pioneer of advanced technology, bringing science fiction to life. With an on-the-record annual budget of close to the $3 billion, their role in our world seems to be to absorb any and all human innovation and re-direct it toward the art of killing and controlling people. A simple Google search of ‘DARPA’ reveals an endless array of incredibly cool science projects, and public science competitions designed to discover and recruit the greatest upcoming scientific minds the human race produces.

Their influence in our world cannot be understated, both for their positive contributions to society, such as development of the internet, and for their nefarious re-works of every great scientific idea. Their work will continue unabated no matter who is president.

3. Wall Street and Silicon Valley – Wall Street is the organization of criminal bankers and law firms who’ve managed to re-configure government and global finance to work in their favor, allowing them to privatize profit and socialize losses, guaranteeing the infinite enrichment of the 1%. Their power, originally garnered with the creation of central banking and banking corporations like The Federal Reserve, is now maintained and concentrated by their technological sophistication through their coordination with Silicon Valley.

Scientist, author and celebrated technological philosopher Jaron Lanier writes of the banking elite’s ability to outpace even any regulatory agency’s ability to understand and control the technology now involved in exacting trades, due to the simple fact that private companies with endless resources can afford to buy the best minds on earth.

As Lanier puts it, “there was a high-tech network scheme at play that seemed to concentrate wealth while at the same time causing volatility and trauma for ordinary people, particularly taxpayers who often ended up paying for a bailout.” No individual investor can compete with these Siren Servers, no matter how smart or lucky. [Source]

Combined, the powers of Wall Street and Silicon Valley effectively own the U.S. government and rest assured, whichever candidate makes it to inauguration day, they will be well-funded by, and well-respecting of the powers-that-be on Wall Street.

4. The Military Industrial Complex’s Defense ContractorsThe Orwellian permanent war is not a necessity in our modern world, but rather a natural by-product of exorbitant, unfettered investment in the arms race. The list of defense contractors that comprise the military industrial complex and manufacture and produce the equipment and war material that makes endless war a permanent feature of the modern world is, again, noted by Business Insider. At the top of their list of nine companies is Lockheed Martin, followed by Boeing, Ratheon, General Dynamics and Northrup Grumman, all receiving tens of billions of dollars annually from the federal government.

Their power is derived from the good-old-boy and revolving door network of government insiders and private sector free-agents who compete for taxpayer money and contracts. Both Trump and Hillary are supportive of this network, so take your pick.

5. The Secret Black Budget and Space Programs – These are the programs that are spoken of mostly in rumors. The best guess is that they are funded by money stolen from the American people and operate in locations such as the fabled Deep Underground Bases (DUMB’s) under the protection of the military. We know they exist because of occasional media leaks about their technological achievements and secretly funded programs, yet information is often sketchy. None-the-less, their works will continue to influence the direction of global conflict while pushing the world toward a space-based economy no matter which candidate you choose.

The Missing Trillions of Taxpayer Money

Former Wall Street investment bank director, and former assistant secretary United States Department of Housing and Urban Development during the first Bush Administration, Catherine Austin Fitts estimates that some $40 trillion dollars in taxpayer money has disappeared in recent decades from the budgets of the Pentagon and other agencies and has been covertly directed toward the operations of these Deep State institutions.

In 2015 the gross domestic product of the U.S. economy was close to $18 trillion, meaning that, at least, over 2 years full years of American productivity has been vaporized by the secretive government, and most recently some $6.5 trillion was reported missing from the Pentagon. This is how the Deep State is funded and why the elections play such an important role in distracting the American public.

Final Thoughts

In light of revelations about the existence and operations of these agencies, as well as their speculated funding by missing public money, voting for a president is rightfully acknowledged as futile. For those of us truly seeking positive change in a world where government is completely unaccountable to the people who fund it, there’s simply no way to ignore the relevance of exposing the Deep State.

“As all governments—sometimes for good reasons—engage in concealment of their more questionable activities, or even resort to out and out deception, one must ask how the deep state differs. While an elected government might sometimes engage in activity that is legally questionable, there is normally some plausible pretext employed to cover up or explain the act.

But for players in the deep state, there is no accountability and no legal limit. Everything is based on self-interest, justified through an assertion of patriotism and the national interest.” ~ Philip Giraldi

Via Waking Times

Dylan Charles is a student and teacher of Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, a practitioner of Yoga and Taoist arts, and an activist and idealist passionately engaged in the struggle for a more sustainable and just world for future generations. He is the editor of WakingTimes.com, the proprietor of OffgridOutpost.com, a grateful father and a man who seeks to enlighten others with the power of inspiring information and action. He may be contacted at wakingtimes@gmail.com.
This article (The Deep State Institutions that Couldn’t Care Less Who You Vote For) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Dylan Charles and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

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Science

Is it already too late to consider the ethics of mind control technology?

There seems to be a troubling uptick around “ethics” recently within scientific circles that are focusing on robotics, artificial intelligence, and brain research. I say troubling because embedded within the standard appeals for caution which should appear in science, there also seems to be a tacit admission that things might be quickly spiraling out of control, as we are told of meetings, conventions, and workshops that have the ring of emergency scrambles more than debating society confabs.

Yesterday, Activist Post republished commentary from Harvard which cited a 52-page Stanford study looking into what Artificial Intelligence might look like in the year 2030. That report admits that much of what the general public believes to be science fiction – like pre-crime, for example – is already being implemented or is well on the way to impacting people’s day-to-day lives. We have seen the same call for ethical standards and caution about “killer robots” when, in fact, robots are already killing and injuring humans. Really all that is left to be considered, presumably, is the degree to which these systems should be permitted to become fully autonomous.

The same dichotomy between properly addressing the role of future technology and “uh oh, I think the genie is out of the bottle” also appears in the following article from Arizona State University, which some readers might remember was the source of a whistleblower that came to Activist Post some years ago with extreme concern about a secret DARPA program being conducted at Arizona State that aimed to develop a form of remote mind control using the technology of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. One of the ways that this technology could become remote-controlled is via the use of “neural dust” or “smart dust” that literally would open a two-way connection between brain and computer. You will read more about where that technology stands today in the article below, as well as other forms of implants that are slated for development.

It used to be the case that I would highlight a select few words from university, military, and scientific press releases; this time, the entire article would have to be highlighted, as it runs the full gamut of open admission about what previously has been “conspiratorial” or “sci-fi” (there is even mention of geoengineering here).

Lastly, can we really entrust the exact same players who are developing these systems – many for profit and control – to be involved in the formulation of an ethical framework?

If you share a concern that the technology we have developed is beginning to take on a life of its own, please share this information as we try to keep pace and hopefully corral our own creations into the most positive functions possible.

Considering Ethics Now Before Radically New Brain Technologies Get Away From Us

By Andrew Maynard, Arizona State University

Imagine infusing thousands of wireless devices into your brain, and using them to both monitor its activity and directly influence its actions. It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, and for the moment it still is – but possibly not for long.

Brain research is on a roll at the moment. And as it converges with advances in science and technology more broadly, it’s transforming what we are likely to be able to achieve in the near future.

Spurring the field on is the promise of more effective treatments for debilitating neurological and psychological disorders such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and depression. But new brain technologies will increasingly have the potential to alter how someone thinks, feels, behaves and even perceives themselves and others around them – and not necessarily in ways that are within their control or with their consent.

This is where things begin to get ethically uncomfortable.

Because of concerns like these, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) are cohosting a meeting of experts this week on responsible innovation in brain science.

Berkeley’s ‘neural dust’ sensors are one of the latest neurotech advances.
Where are neurotechnologies now?

Brain research is intimately entwined with advances in the “neurotechnologies” that not only help us study the brain’s inner workings, but also transform the ways we can interact with and influence it.

For example, researchers at the University of California Berkeley recently published the first in-animal trials of what they called “neural dust” – implanted millimeter-sized sensors. They inserted the sensors in the nerves and muscles of rats, showing that these miniature wirelessly powered and connected sensors can monitor neural activity. The long-term aim, though, is to introduce thousands of neural dust particles into human brains.

The UC Berkeley sensors are still relatively large, on par with a coarse piece of sand, and just report on what’s happening around them. Yet advances in nanoscale fabrication are likely to enable their further miniaturization. (The researchers estimate they could be made thinner than a human hair.) And in the future, combining them with technologies like optogenetics – using light to stimulate genetically modified neurons – could enable wireless, localized brain interrogation and control.

Used in this way, future generations of neural dust could transform how chronic neurological disorders are managed. They could also enable hardwired brain-computer interfaces (the original motivation behind this research), or even be used to enhance cognitive ability and modify behavior.

The BRAIN Initiative is one of the Obama administration’s ‘Grand Challenges.’ Jason Reed/Reuters

In 2013, President Obama launched the multi-year, multi-million dollar U.S. BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). The same year, the European Commission launched the Human Brain Project, focusing on advancing brain research, cognitive neuroscience and brain-inspired computing. There are also active brain research initiatives in China, Japan, Korea, Latin America, Israel, Switzerland, Canada and even Cuba.

Together, these represent an emerging and globally coordinated effort to not only better understand how the brain works, but to find new ways of controlling and enhancing it (in particular in disease treatment and prevention); to interface with it; and to build computers and other artificial systems that are inspired by it.
Cutting-edge tech comes with ethical questions

This week’s NAS workshop – organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and supported by the National Science Foundation and my home institution of Arizona State University – isn’t the first gathering of experts to discuss the ethics of brain technologies. In fact there’s already an active international community of experts addressing “neuroethics.”

Many of these scientific initiatives do have a prominent ethics component. The U.S. BRAIN initiative for example includes a Neuroethics Workgroup, while the E.C. Human Brain Project is using an Ethics Map to guide research and development. These and others are grappling with the formidable challenges of developing future neurotechnologies responsibly.

It’s against this backdrop that the NAS workshop sets out to better understand the social and ethical opportunities and challenges emerging from global brain research and neurotechnologies. A goal is to identify ways of ensuring these technologies are developed in ways that are responsive to social needs, desires and concerns. And it comes at a time when brain research is beginning to open up radical new possibilities that were far beyond our grasp just a few years ago.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation uses a powerful and rapidly changing electrical current to excite neural processes in the brain, similar to direct stimulation with electrodes. Eric Wassermann, M.D., CC BY

In 2010, for instance, researchers at MIT demonstrated that Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS – a noninvasive neurotechnology – could temporarily alter someone’s moral judgment. Another noninvasive technique called transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) delivers low-level electrical currents to the brain via electrodes on the scalp; it’s being explored as a treatment for clinical conditions from depression to chronic pain – while already being used in consumer products and by do-it-yourselfers to allegedly self-induce changes in mental state and ability.

Crude as current capabilities using TMS and tDCS are, they are forcing people to think about the responsible development and use of technologies which have the ability to potentially change behavior, personality and thinking ability, at the flick of a switch. And the ethical questions they raise are far from straightforward.

For instance, should students be allowed to take exams while using tDCS? Should teachers be able to use tDCS in the classroom? Should TMS be used to prevent a soldier’s moral judgment from interfering with military operations?

These and similar questions grapple with what is already possible. Complex as they are, they pale against the challenges emerging neurotechnologies are likely to raise.
Preparing now for what’s to come

As research leads to an increasingly sophisticated and fine-grained understanding of how our brains function, related neurotechnologies are likely to become equally sophisticated. As they do, our abilities to precisely control function, thinking, behavior and personality, will extend far beyond what is currently possible.

To get a sense of the emerging ethical and social challenges such capabilities potentially raise, consider this speculative near-future scenario:

Imagine that in a few years’ time, the UC Berkeley neural dust has been successfully miniaturized and combined with optogenetics, allowing thousands of micrometer-sized devices to be seeded through someone’s brain that are capable of monitoring and influencing localized brain functions. Now imagine this network of neural transceivers is wirelessly connected to an external computer, and from there, to the internet.

Such a network – a crude foreshadowing of science fiction author Iain M. Banks’ “neural lace” (a concept that has already grabbed the attention of Elon Musk) – would revolutionize the detection and treatment of neurological conditions, potentially improving quality of life for millions of people. It would enable external devices to be controlled through thought, effectively integrating networked brains into the Internet of Things. It could help overcome restricted physical abilities for some people. And it would potentially provide unprecedented levels of cognitive enhancement, by allowing people to interface directly with cloud-based artificial intelligence and other online systems.

Think Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Echo hardwired into your brain, and you begin to get the idea.

Yet this neurotech – which is almost within reach of current technological capabilities – would not be risk-free. These risks could be social – a growing socioeconomic divide perhaps between those who are neuro-enhanced and those who are not. Or they could be related to privacy and autonomy – maybe the ability of employers and law enforcement to monitor, and even alter, thoughts and feelings. The innovation might threaten personal well-being and societal cohesion through (hypothetical) cyber substance abuse, where direct-to-brain code replaces psychoactive substances. It could make users highly vulnerable to neurological cyberattacks.

Of course, predicting and responding to possible future risks is fraught with difficulties, and depends as much on who considers what a risk (and to whom) as it does the capabilities of emerging technologies to do harm. Yet it’s hard to avoid the likely disruptive potential of near-future neurotechnologies. Thus the urgent need to address – as a society – what we want the future of brain technologies to look like.

Moving forward, the ethical and responsible development of emerging brain technologies will require new thinking, along with considerable investment, in what might go wrong, and how to avoid it. Here, we can learn from thinking about responsible and ethical innovation that has come to light around recombinant DNA, nanotechnology, geoengineering and other cutting-edge areas of science and technology.

To develop future brain technologies both successfully and responsibly, we need to do so in ways that avoid potential pitfalls while not stifling innovation. We need approaches that ensure ordinary people can easily find out how these technologies might affect their lives – and they must have a say in how they’re used.

All this won’t necessarily be easy – responsible innovation rarely is. But through initiatives like this week’s NAS workshop and others, we have the opportunity to develop brain technologies that are profoundly beneficial, without getting caught up in an ethical minefield.

Andrew Maynard, Director, Risk Innovation Lab, Arizona State University
This article was originally published on The Conversation.

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