This week’s hypothetical


You slip and bump your head on your bathroom sink, and suddenly you have the most amazing idea. You retreat to your basement and spend 24 hours building a crazy device out of household electronics, and when it’s finished your head is still clearing–you don’t even know what it is.

When you emerge with it the next day, you quickly discover that you’ve just build a mind-control device. When you speak through it, you can get people to do just what you want them to do, and they’re happy about it.

An amazing discovery! But could you make someone kill themselves, or kill others? How long does the effect last? You don’t know the answer to that.

How are you going to test the limits of your new device? And what are you going to do with it?

5 thoughts on “This week’s hypothetical

  1. Wow. I am not sure I have the ethical framework to actually seriously try it on someone.

    I would probably as a practical matter test its range for starters. Can this work if people are not physically present. How far away do they have to be?

  2. LabRat001

    Okay there’s someone at work who would benefit from “Stop speaking, remain mute forever”. They won’t mind as “they’re happy about it” and everyone else will gain some peace. I’ll do that in a fake accent from out of sight so they don’t know who told them to.

    That should give me an idea of how long it lasts which should give me a clue as to whether it would be worth giving up my free time to travel the country and go up to as many politicians as I can find and say

    “Behave at all times honestly and honourably”

    to them.

    If its short term only it sounds like a good riot control device

    “Shut up and sit down”

    Would it be wrong of me to just wander around telling people “Be happy!”.

    If it works long term hang around outside court with “Stop breaking the law” or more specific variants.

  3. Jon

    I wouldn’t use it at all.

    Even with the ability to use it ethically, which I’m not certain anyone has, it would remove someone’s free will. I believe this would be evil.

    Although I can see practical, peaceful uses of this I don’t believe that is the way it would end up being used. I would sadly destroy this machine

  4. Ione

    **IF** you choose to test it at all, then obviously it should be done with informed consent of the test subjects. That removes a lot of the difficulties about controlling people during testing. No testing of the “kill yourself” option at all. Aside from other concerns, there’s a lot easier ways of killing people than trying to use a mind control device on them.

    The big question would be whether to test it at all, or smash it with a hammer. But if you haven’t tested it at all yet, then how do you know what it is??

  5. Platypus

    I’d start with people with addiction problems, I guess? One option would be to put out an ad for “Revolutionary New Drug Addiction Therapy”. When people came in, I’d try some crappy fake attempt at hypnosis as a distraction, and then use the machine while they weren’t looking. I’d ask them to send me weekly updates on how well it was working.

    If that didn’t seem to cause any problems — no odd behavioral tics, no spontaneous brain melting — step two would be to go straight for the politicians, like LabRat suggested.

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