Monday, January 9, 2012

Worldbuilding: Therapy

O my droogies, 'tis time for a little of the ultraviolence.

And then to fix those antisocial tendencies. Or at least the memories of past trauma that are contributing to your antisocial tendencies.

Memory is unreliable, memory is malleable, false memories can be put into your head and real memories get over-written all the time. Memories of past traumas shape our behavior in conscious and sub-conscious ways -- better known as "once bitten, twice shy" in milder cases, PTSD in more severe cases.

That's a vast over-simplification, of course. Psychology has known about that for a long time. And science fiction has known about it for a long time too -- from Brave New World on down, there are plenty of stories about different ways to control human behavior for whatever reasons you care to give. Some use drugs, some use violence, some use persuasion, some aim to make the world safer and some aim to take control of the world.

There's an underlying sameness to everybody, in those stories. The worst kind of equality, for me -- mashing everyone down to the lowest common denominator. Stories of enforced conformity always hit a chord in me, always incite a stubborn belief that I have a right to be my own slightly damaged, social-fringe-seeking self, misery and all. Thus, it turns up in my science fiction.

Brain scanning has given us an unprecedented ability to watch the brain go about its business in real time, and the mapping of all our brain's activities is currently underway. Our understanding of the biochemistry going on in there is improving too, and now that we can more directly see what's going on in there I expect that pharmaceuticals will become much more targeted and effective.

Well, there's your problem
I did a little homework on it too. It's fascinating what they're already figuring out. This is an even more recent article than the ones I was reading. If you're brave, this is the abstract to a paper that doctor was involved in. Let me try to translate it a bit: they gave a drug to people soon after a traumatic experience, and later monitored their physical reaction to memories of the event. Those who'd gotten the drug had significantly lower physical reactions to remembering the trauma. What physical reactions? The physical indicators of fear, essentially.

So if you can reduce the fear people feel when an old, buried trauma gooses them... would that keep a guy from throwing the first punch and let him try talking his way out of a fight instead? 

Combine that with the idea of reconditioning that was used so well in A Clockwork Orange,  re-wrap it in targeted, branded pharmaceuticals and active brain scanning, and then smile and say "This is for your own good, dear," as you tighten the patient's restraints.

Gives me chills. You?

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