This recent article describes an experiment in which what they call a ‘false memory’ is implanted into the mind of a mouse. The mouse is associating the painful shocks it is given, with a different room that it had been in earlier–not the one it was in at the time of the shocks.
This sounds to me more like a false association, rather than a false memory. The mouse really was in that room, but now it makes him think of that pain he received in the other room.
I wonder, if these kinds of associations can be added, could they be removed? Could we use this technology in the future to ‘cure’ psychopaths who associate murder and other violent acts with pleasure? Or sexual predators?
And if we could, would they agree to it? And if they didn’t, would it be ethical to force them to? This is assuming they were not already in police custody for a crime. If a serial killer, or someone who derived pleasure from causing pain and killing saw a way to change themselves, would they? Would they volunteer for the procedure?
What if we had already arrested someone for murder. If we ‘cured’ them of their violent desires, would they then get a reduced sentence, or be set free all together? I feel the answer to this one would be ‘no’. Even if we could guarantee they would never harm anyone again, the human desire for retribution and punishment is too strong to ever let that person have a normal life, even if they were fixed beyond a shadow of doubt. Even if the only reason prison makes sense is to lock away people who are a threat to society.
Though I like the positive implications of this technology, it could easily be taken too far, leading to a completely homogenized society where everyone had the same likes and dislikes. I have little fear of it coming to that, though. I think humans are too resistant to that kind of control.
There will always be outliers and weirdos, and I don’t think that should be changes. What should be changed is the tendency toward violence. Anything we can do to reduce that impulse in humanity at large, I am for.