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Ear to the Ground

Obama’s Brain Plans

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Posted on Feb 19, 2013
Patrick Hoesly (CC BY 2.0)

The same administration that brought you the “Disposition Matrix”—a blueprint for tracking, capturing or killing alleged terrorism suspects—is investing in a decade-long effort to build a comprehensive map of the human brain.

In addition to advancing human knowledge and helping doctors combat disease, the proposed multibillion dollar “Brain Activity Map” is being presented by the Obama administration as an economic stimulus. “Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy—every dollar,” the president said in his State of the Union address.

“Today our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs, devising new materials to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.”

But few governments do anything just for the public good. What the administration has not revealed is what corporations will own, hide and profit from in terms of discoveries made by the project at public expense, and what new means for monitoring and policing the public it may help devise.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The New York Times:

A meeting held on Jan. 17 at the California Institute of Technology was attended by the three government agencies, as well as neuroscientists, nanoscientists and representatives from Google, Microsoft and Qualcomm. According to a summary of the meeting, it was held to determine whether computing facilities existed to capture and analyze the vast amounts of data that would come from the project. The scientists and technologists concluded that they did.

They also said that a series of national brain “observatories” should be created as part of the project, like astronomical observatories.

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