Compliments of Vegar Samestad Hansen via flickr

Compliments of Vegar Samestad Hansen via flickr

In a white collar version of scared straight, MBA students at Pepperdine speak to incarcerated executives, receiving lectures in the penitentiary from once powerful individuals. This type knowledge can be obtained through vicariously living someone else’s experience, or in the worst case scenario from breaking the law.

Future MBAs gain a sense of the magnitude non-physical crime can exact. What if instead we could experience remorse in a more visceral way? In The Future of the Mind, Kaku explains how MIT scientists implanted “shock” memory within mice brains. He describes a future in which skills we’ve never learned (and trips we’ve never taken) may instantaneously become embedded inside our minds:

This would involve “. . . making a recording of this memory and feeding the electrical signal into the hippocampus of another subject via electrodes . . . in this fashion, the subject may learn to jump through a hoop although it has never done so before. If successful, scientists would gradually create a library containing recordings of certain memories” (p. 111). 

Collections of thoughts may evolve into “memory tapes,” which could then be uploaded to social media – and even stored within libraries. Implications for society are profound. Could immersive mental experiences present an alternative and/or hybrid methodology to lockup?

In the criminal justice system, could convicts be sentenced to experiencing – though either memory implant that could erase once their “sentence” is complete (as in the movie “Paycheck”) or through immersion, what it feels like to be on the receiving of their crime? Instead of victim empathy training for sexual offenders, could a more encompassing and deeply personal punishment be administered?

Additionally: could less violent offenders be reprogrammed in a similar fashion? What if serial bullies (instead of sitting through computer aided instruction and subsequently printing completion certificates) could actually feel what it’s like to live with PTSD/debilitating anxiety/hypervigilance and/or depression; might they be stopped in their tracks? If they could stand knee deep in the shame, fear, and embarrassment of someone who’s suffered public defacement, they might be forever cured of a penchant to inflict harm. For legal purposes, Kaku argues that fake memories would need a type of delimiter so they can be identified. “Safeguards would have to be introduced. Laws will have to be passed that clearly define the limits of granting or denying access to memories” (p. 128).

The process of memory implant may take decades to perfect, but the potential legal and ethical ramifications it presents are worth pondering.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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