Brain scans are in the news again; those MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) images that show the electrical activity going on in our brains. One of these days, we’re going to have to pay attention to what is going on in politicians’ brains on account of them.
The linked article reports that brain scans of prisoners can estimate which ones are most likely to repeat their crimes after release. It seems that our tendencies toward both sociopathy and impulsiveness show up on the scans, and those are primary predictors of criminal behavior.
Apparently, you can’t say someone with the indicated brain pattern will commit crime, but you can say that, if they have already committed crime, they have a much greater probability than the rest of us of doing it again. Other sorts of behavior also show typical brain patterns, it’s not just criminals.
This is getting interesting. There are two booby traps in this: One is of course, what does government do with it when enough folks realize that criminal behavior is predictable from brain scans? I can visualize the activists demanding brain scans in schools, with everybody who tests positive having their scan sent to the NSA or something.
Reasonable folk will point out, (until their daughter is raped) that not all possessors of positive scans will go into criminal behavior, and what if more blacks turn out to have positive scans? But some out-of-work, ex tobacco attorneys will file lawsuits alleging that their clients would have been safe if the scans had been applied and some sympathetic jury will award zillions. Then, what?
But that’s just the easy part. The second joker in this deck is, if it is indeed a fact that brains showing the specified configuration are both sociopathic and more impulsive than ‘normal’ –whatever normal is– then we’ve really opened Pandor’s can of worms, if I may mangle a metaphor or two.
If my brain made me do it, how can you hold me responsible? May I sue my parents? What happens to our famous ‘free will’ our entire society depends upon? How do you justify the jails? OOPS?
Lots to consider coming out of the research labs these days. Maybe we’d best just shut them down and lynch the scientists like they used to, when the guys came up, like Galileo, with uncomfortable knowledge… And close all the churches, of course…