“Not guilty, your honour” has a new ring these days. Call it the ring of truth!
Ever since sophisticated brain scanning techniques were accepted as legal process in courtrooms across the world, the very idea of lying to the court has become something of the past.
Well, you can lie if you want to – but the scanner will detect it immediately, and apparently with 100% accuracy.
But the new ‘TrueScan’ technology is causing a massive human rights debate, with both legal experts and activists in full flight. “This is taking the ugly, invasive world of Big Brother to a frightening level,” declared an angry Rufus Bendetter, leader of the newly formed GOMB (‘Get out of my brain’) protest group. “What’s next? Scanners in schools, prisons, banks, airports, offices, and even in homes?”
Wilhemeim de Ruiter, a Dutch lawyer and spokesperson for the TrueScan company strongly disagrees. “The whole principle of all legal systems is that you must tell the truth in court. TrueScan is simply a tool to uphold that principle. What are the protesters frightened of? If you tell the truth, you have nothing to fear.”
At the heart of the furore is whether functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI technology, is really 100% accurate, as its makers declare. Promotional literature promises an end to wrongful judgements, but the critics argue that the process, which records brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow within the brain, and then uses sophisticated algorithms to correlate the responses with data, is open to errors, and has been released into courtrooms too early.
The jury may still be out – but a number of institutions, from prisons to airports, and yes, even businesses, are eyeing the new technology. And the pendulum seems to be swinging in its favour.
“It’s a sad fact that we live in a dangerous, treacherous world,” said an editorial in The Times of London this week. “Any technology that can identify people who lie in potentially dangerous situations, before they can harm society, can only be welcomed, albeit reluctantly.”
If only politicians, bankers and corporate spin doctors could be scanned while appearing on TV, there would be no protests at all!