Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My latest MercatorNet story: Brain scans and neurotrash

It's the ultimate branding strategy. Just slap "neuro" before a word and the goofiest speculation becomes respectable science." Here:
Unfortunately, neurotrash may not always be harmless nonsense in marketing departments about what color of car people choose. Increasingly, in the form of neurolaw, it is catching on in the legal profession, in the same way that lie detector tests did decades ago. What happened there was that some people learned to fake results - people who may well have committed serious crimes. Who knows how many others were damaged by false results when they were innocent?

A serious ethical question also erupts as to why the accused's brain should be scanned anyway. It is not a crime to think about a crime, only to act outside the law. Even if a brain scan showed the accused was thinking about it, that would never prove he did it. Lots of employees hate their boss and wish the boss would just drop dead. If you scanned their brains... well, let's say it's better not to go there. Very few employees actually commit a violent crime against the boss, so the brain scan evidence -- even if reliable, which it probably isn't - is not worth gathering.

Also, we must consider traditional principles of law. Under English common law, if a person cannot be convicted on the external evidence of their intent and actions, that person cannot be convicted. Period. It is too bad if the prosecution team loses, even when morally certain that the accused is guilty. But that is an incentive to improve their procedures in normal ways.
Yes, it matters. Your family doctor should be reading this.

Go here for more.