The Frontal Cortex

Violence Detectors

The WSJ reports today that the Dept. of Homeland Security has begun testing biometric devices designed to weed out airplane passengers with “hostile intent”. The particular metrics are secret, of course, but they seem to be surprisingly crude. (They don’t go much beyond measuring your blood pressure and pulse in response to questions. In other words, they are a crude kind of lie-detector.) Nevertheless, this does make me wonder about when fMRI machines will become tools of security. How long before the metal detector is replaced by a “hostile intent detector”?

At airport security checkpoints in Knoxville, Tenn. this summer, scores of departing passengers were chosen to step behind a curtain, sit in a metallic oval booth and don headphones.

With one hand inserted into a sensor that monitors physical responses, the travelers used the other hand to answer questions on a touch screen about their plans. A machine measured biometric responses — blood pressure, pulse and sweat levels — that then were analyzed by software. The idea was to ferret out U.S. officials who were carrying out carefully constructed but make-believe terrorist missions.

The trial of the Israeli-developed system represents an effort by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to determine whether technology can spot passengers who have “hostile intent.” In effect, the screening system attempts to mechanize Israel’s vaunted airport-security process by using algorithms, artificial-intelligence software and polygraph principles.


  1. #1 DavidD
    August 14, 2006

    You could try punching people as they come on or off the plane and see who hit you back or cursed you or got this glint in their eyes as if to say, “I’ll get you back later, buddy.” Then again, maybe the ones who have learned not to object to that are the dangerous ones.

    Whether it’s a low tech solution or a high tech one, it’s only as good as the data you get to show it really works. What if fMRI just shows that everyone at the airport is ticked off?

  2. #2 Lance
    September 27, 2007

    Any type of technology used to gather, store, and use information on any of us is a surveillance and control technology. Whoever, or whatever, is in control of developing and deploying this technology are the controllers, while those being subjected to these types of technologies are the controlled! Those in positions of power are in control, while the rest of us are being controlled. Technologies of control are seen in overt forms such as cameras in the black bubble on the ceiling, or the cameras on your streets, in your cars, and even hidden in your homes in electronic equipment, or covertly as in patented mind manipulation technologies that can alter your mood, fog your thinking, and even alter your thinking, not to mention the “classified” technologies that can do much worse! This is an absolute power, and as the saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely! Nothing good in any real sense of the word will come from the spread of information technologies! These technologies seek not only to control ones outward behavior, but also the mind where the human spirit and free will exists! To use information technologies to manipulate and control any of us is to take the place of GOD, and act as the absolute power! This is the exact definition of TYRANNY!

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