How Tech Changes What It Means To Be Guilty

Last year a memory was recorded in a mouse for the first time.

Last year a memory was recorded in a mouse for the first time. The memory? Sipping water.

Researchers achieved the feat by inserting electrodes into the animal’s hippocampus, recording the brain's signals, and then reinserting the recording months later. The mouse immediately remembered what it had forgotten, and while it was a rather simple memory, the event has many implications.

Read more: The Connected Person

Michio Kaku, a futurist and famous physicist, explains (during SolidWorks World 2015) that similar experiments will be done on primates next. After that, Alzheimer’s patients.

Kaku describes the future technology as a brain pacemaker. Users could simply push a button and memories would be inserted into the mind, reminding them who they are and where they live.

“Beyond that, perhaps whole memories could be uploaded into the human mind,” says Kaku. This could eliminate hours at the library, and anxiety about flunking calculus. “Just push a button and those theorems go right into your mind,” he adds.

But what happens if false memories can be uploaded into the mind? For example, a false memory of pulling the trigger.

The ominous side of Kaku’s proposed future throws a wrench in our judicial system that is based heavily on eye witness accounts and swearing to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

In addition to real memories of sipping water, false memories have also already been uploaded into mice.

A report (Creating a False Memory in the Hippocampus) published in 2013 explains, “Memories can be unreliable. We created a false memory in mice by optogenetically manipulating memory engram–bearing cells in the hippocampus.”

“We have to worry about false memories,” says Kaku, as they could make an innocent person believe they pulled the trigger.

In the future (and today) criminals will point to their brain scans and say, “my brain made me do it.” “To some degree I think they’re right,” says Kaku, adding that the issue stems from having a criminal justice system based on guilt.

“Once we can do brain scans and find that some people have damaged brains, then in some sense they’re not guilty, because their brain made them do it,” he adds. And this is not a new argument.

So what do we do with these people?

“I say lock them up,” says Kaku. “Not because they are guilty … but because they are a menace, they are a danger to society.”

Kaku explains that our criminal justice system is already being challenged. “We do have brain scans and people are arguing today that my brain made me do it, and the law may have to be revised,” he adds.

While this argument hasn’t always stood up in court, Kaku’s prediction of a “brain pace maker,” and the ability to someday implant false memories into humans, will certainly come with its own set of complications (as anything new always does).

What are your thoughts? Is the brain pacemaker in our future? How will this affect our criminal justice system?

Comment below or tweet me @melfass.

To hear more of Kaku's thoughts, watch the video below: