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Be Afraid
Published on March 31, 2004 By Phil Osborn In Politics
In the early '80's I ran into an interesting guy who was not a libertarian, to my surprise, especially as we met at a party hosted by Anthony L. Hargis & Co., a gold depository service. Hargis had started his gold depository in the mid-'70's, offering a way for people to reduce exposure to inflation by accounts denominated in either gold or dollars. Hargis' main focus was on capital preservation, although the feds have recently alleged that some of his customers may have been using his service for tax avoidance, as Hargis was also offering to write checks for customers so that they could use his service in place of a bank, while retaining the advantages of capital preservation. It probably didn't help matters that Hargis kept all sorts of tax-resistance literature in his lobby, and now and for the indefinite future he's sitting in a federal prison after a local federal judge demanded that he hand over his customer information (which I doubt he will ever do), but that's another topic...

In any case, back then the Boomer generation had not become as stoggy, dull and conservative as it is now, and parties were all the rage. "Networking" was the new buzz, and plenty of that took place at the ALH&Co. parties. I attended quite a number of them over several years, and would typically find people who were on the cutting edge of nanotechnology and/or cryonics or personal computers (still a novelty then), artificial intelligence, or any number of other strange and wonderful things. Most of these people were also anarcho-capitalists, at the time, the so-called "patriots" who later became the bulk of ALH&Co. customers having not yet evolved in any great numbers. Hargis was marketing to a mostly radical libertarian customer base, and most of them were also radicals in other areas, especially science or information systems.

The girlfriend of one of the other frequent attendees brought a relative along, however, who was just passing through and was not a libertarian, although I think he was somehow connected to the cryonics movement. He was obviously a bright guy, in any case, and open to new ideas, so I took it upon myself to evangelize, offering to convert him to the libertarian side in an hour. So, we went out for dinner and I wasted about an hour unsuccessfully trying to win him over to the truth and light.

So it goes. However, after that failure, we talked about other subjects, including a non-libertarian-specific revolutionary strategy I had been playing with for some time in my mind. To wit, a truth machine. My idea was that a private society could form around the idea of total, verifiable honesty among its members, which would give it certain advantages, especially a lack of internal predation. I called it The Society of Truth, or SOTH. The verification would be based upon technology, including, but not necessarily limited to polygraphs, voice stress analysis, drugs and whatever else came along. "Truth Machine" was just a shorthand for whatever.

I had thrown out this idea, with non-disclosure agreements, to a few other people who had technical expertise and capital, to see if anyone might want to pursue it commercially, without success, so I offered it to Halperin for free, but in the context of a projected novel. He had stated that he wanted to write a novel, so I gave him the theme and a good deal of the plot and a lot of the details as well. I figured that the novel would sell the idea and eventually help bring it into reality. But then I heard no more from Halperin. Until 1996, that is, when I tuned into the best radio show ever, "Hour 25," dedicated to science fiction. Hosted then (and now in its web reincarnation) by Warren James, Hour 25 had been running continuously since 1972, every Friday night, and probably 80% of the top 10% of American sf authors had been guests at some point. So here's Warren, introducing Halperin. But before he even mentioned the name of either author or book, he gave one or two line about the novel, and immediately I KNEW!

Halperin had done it. I had specifically stated that I didn't want to be credited, as there were people who I expected that Halperin would go to for technical assistance, who were NOT friendly to me. Best I stay silent and hidden. I did say that in return for giving him the idea, which I would never have the time to implement myself, I should get some arbitrary token. So I specified that he include something about gyrocopters - so there's the reason for that little anomoly. So, "The Truth Machine" was now real, and remarkably close to my original concept, including even the revolutionary strategy, implemented on Halperin's website, which apparently no longer exists.

On a totally separate track, now, consider the novel by Poul Anderson, whose title I can't locate for the moment, in which the Maori become the de-facto superpower in a post nuclear holocaust world. They oppose the BIG TECH that dominated the world before, and systematically hunt it down and destroy it, but at the same time find "appropriate" hi-tech itself handy to give them an edge in maintaining their own loose hegemony. The most critical technology they possess is a kind of near mindreading, based on implants in their throats and jaws that pick up the subvocalizations that people make when thinking in words. Thus, those few special agents equiped with the implants can communicate undetected as they go about technosabotage.

So? Well click on THIS!

Combining the technology discussed in the "Reason" piece with the new NASA sub-vocalization speach recognition, what do we have, if not a system by which virtually all capacity for deception has been eliminated? Add in truth-drugs and the case is more telling.

I.e., Big Brother really can pretty much read your mind in the near future. Sure, you can think without subvocalizing. Deaf people do it all the time. Try it. Imagine trying to do it and also carry on a conversation or reply to an interrogator... And, you can expose yourself to so many images that the familiarity brainwave test says little. I'm not sure that either technique can be totally defeated, however. But then, there are the various truth serums, ranging from the ancient drug scopalomine, which is still in widespread use in South America by professional kidnappers, to much more potent ones developed by the CIA and other spooks.

If you awaken one morning with a hangover, and a dim memory of disquieting dreams, who is to say that you haven't been interrogated the night before? After all, tens of thousands of women here in America have been raped after being slipped roofies, GHB or similar readily available prescription drugs, and probably 98% of them have no memory of it, or any idea that it even happened. Do you really think that the spook community would just drop something that valuable? Over ethical concerns?

Imagine that you've been ID'd as a troublemaker. So, one night they show up with guns, force you to drink something, and the next morning you have a hangover and are none the wiser, except that maybe your throat is reallysore. So, after a week or so, your throat is ok. You decide to attend a political rally against censorship a week later. You don't tell anyone, of course, but you think about it repeatedly. When your car won't start that morning, you don't even consider the possibility that it might have been sabotaged. But you miss the rally. Or maybe you do go to it. In the days after, several of your friends whose names you know and who also attended the rally have hangovers and really sore throats. Must have caught that "bug" from you, huh?

Imagine implanting at birth? Oops, another "BAD THOUGHT?" Just send another little jolt to the pain center...

And, just having seen perhaps the one absolutely perfect movie ever - "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Ming" - I ought to add in another dimension to this whole picture: Memory erasure.

As I was leaving "Eternal Sunshine...", I overheard another viewer saying something about it being "only science fiction." Well, not quite true. It is true that the technology pictured in the movie may not be out there on the market today, but it is also true that we can DO the stuff depicted, selective erasure of memory. In fact, we have BEEN doing that for quite a while.

Check out Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," on the best seller list like forever when it came out around '74. After he had a nervous breakdown and a psychotic break to boot, they simply erased his lifetime of memories and planted new ones. Electroshock treatment can do that. You force someone to focus on something in their memory, then you ZAP!, and their brain just doesn't recall that pathway any longer. Of course, that method is pretty crude and lengthy and painful!!!, not like that pictured in the movie.

So, Pirsig's book is, on one level, about him rediscovering who he once had been, a person who now he can only read about, and ask that no-longer-existing person's friends and relatives about. Pirsig was able to effectively raise the dead, but he was the rare exception. How many of us are living a new life, unawares, because maybe we stumbled across something in our previous life as a DARPA researcher, let's say?

I predicted a number of things in the late '70's thru early '80's: the World Wide Web, the fall of the Soviet Union before year 2000 (and why, as well), a major terrorist incident around 2000 - used as an excuse to curtail civil rights and as backlash to the information revolution by the forces of entrenched corporate wealth and centralized power, the likely development of true anti-aging by the early 2xxxx's (and the likelihood that it would be surpressed and monopolized by a privileged elite, as in Levin's "This Perfect Day" - google on ependymin and ceremedix for a possible example of this) and the development of silent, secret, highly selective mind control. Problem with that last one - if I could prove it, would I be able to?

So, the two potential faces of new technology: total transparency and the end of crimes - except those of passion - and/or complete lack of freedom to a degree little dreamed of by George Orwell, but mostly unremarked as those who might object or do are simply dealt with untraceably.

on Apr 10, 2004
Is there anything to the truth machine other than your imagination and commonly used technology?
on Apr 14, 2004
If there is, would we know about it? My initial scenario was to use it like the E-Meter in Dianetics. My understanding of their usage, is that you are asked a bunch of leading questions while the "auditor" watches the needle on what is basically just a galvanic skin response testor - one piece of a polygraph. Your changes in skin resistance indicate states of conflict or tension. The point is not just to map these conflicts, but to demand that you make a real commitment to do something about them, at which point the needle drops back to normal. When there are no longer any such identifiable zones in your mind, and the needle stays in the normal zone no matter what you're asked, then I believe you are declared "clear."

By itself, this would certainly be a potentially very useful system for many people who need to get their lives straightened out, and I think that a lot of people do in fact benefit from this level of Dianetics. At the same time, the auditor is making decisions, based on training, based on other principles of Dianetics, as to what questions to ask, what conflicts to pursue, etc. This is not a value-free process.

So, if you deliberately emphasized the process by which auditing might also be used to verify commitment to the organization..... Well, then you might end up with a rich, powerful organization that knew it could trust its members.

Of course, there is that little problem that the galvanic skin response is one of the easiest things to condition. I.e., anyone with a simple biofeedback loop, which could be as simple as watching a meter (or listening for cues from an auditor?) can learn to control their galvanic skin response in no time at all. Even the polygraphs operate with a high level of mythology. People think that they are going to work, and so they respond accordingly, which accounts for a large portion of their actual success. There are numerous studies showing that polygraph operators can be easily fooled, and I met someone who claimed to have witnessed a polygraph used fraudulently. He knew the employee was telling the truth and had never stolen anything, but the polygraph guy needed to justify his salary by "catching crooks." The guy who knew he was full of it ended up quiting his job in management over the issue.

However, that doesn't mean that a "real truth machine" as described in Halperin's novel can't happen. We can watch the brain/mind in operation now in real time at a pretty fine level of detail with some of the more sophisticated scanners, and that kind of technology just gets better and cheaper, especially if driven by market demand. So, is the demand out there? Can you say "Al quieda?"