Nanotechnological solutions to anti-American sentiment
A close variant of this was originally sent to a mailing list on 30/10/2001:
The Bush administration is now enlisting the help of Madison Avenue (the
US advertising industry, not the Australian dance-pop act) in a project
to win the sympathies of the Arab world.
I have my doubts as to how successful that would be, given the mistrust of
the US Government in the Middle East. However, a suggestion raised by someone
else may work better: namely, developing behaviour-modification nanobots which,
when released in resentful third-world countries, penetrate the neurology of the
local population and reprogram them to feel loyalty to
America and its allies, distrust for radical Islam, or consumerist complacency.
Of course, this is a lot easier said than done; so I was thinking of how
such nanobots could possibly work. Some ideas I've had were:
- "Simple" ones could modify the subject's neurology to respond to a simple
signal, otherwise undetectable or unexceptional (say, flickering colours
with a certain frequency range), and then trigger neurochemicals putting
the subject into a state of hypnotic suggestibility. The signals could
be coded into innocuous programmes with pro-US messages (i.e., that
fulfilment can be achieved through eschewing radical politics, working
hard in the Nike plant and using your earnings to buy consumer goods
and watch Hollywood movies).
- Alternatively, the state induced could be one of mystical experience.
(Scientists have recently
discovered the neurology of mystical experience,
and that a mystical experience is just a normal experience content-wise,
only with a "THIS IS IMPORTANT" flag set; the same flag is set in
normal experience during crucial events, such as parent-child bonding.)
Which could allow spiritual movements and cults to be engineered on the
fly. The Church of Mickey Mouse, anyone?
- The mystical experience flag could be used more practically to induce
the belief that a certain figure (say, George W. Bush) is speaking
pearls of numinous wisdom. Though this may be best used on domestic
populations to shore up public support and unity.
- The idea of infantile regression and parental binding lends itself to
other possibilities. If the targets could be induced to feel that
America is a benign, if stern, parental presence, rather than an
imperialist exploiter, their attitudes could be turned around without
any change in US foreign policy. This could be achieved by triggering
a regression to an infantile state with signals in materials bearing
symbols of US influence.
- Moving away from embedded signals, infantile states could be useful
in other ways. If the people of the third world could be made to feel
a sense of wide-eyed wonder about the special effects of a Hollywood
blockbuster or the bounce of a Britney Spears song, they could be
put onto a more consumeristic path, and one less inclined towards
tribalism, nationalism or militant ideology.
- Of course, induced states of consumerist fulfillment among the world's
poorest could lead to social upheaval; the nanobots would have to also
have the effect of inducing a Prozac-like calm whenever anger, frustration
or non-fulfilment is experienced. Thus the targets could be made like
the dull-witted yet good-natured peons in an old Disney animation;
seeking consumerist cargo-cult fulfilment, but too docile to kill for it.
How could the nanobots be delivered? Through USAF airdrops into water and
food supplies, by covert insertion through CIA stations (or even compliant
corporate sales branches, if the parent company is told they will benefit
from improved conditions in the territory), or they could even be made
self-assembling, with one or two nanites dropped into an area rich with
raw materials to build more.
These were just some ideas I've been thinking about; they'd probably be
more useful from a fictional perspective, though those reading this through
Echelon may well find practical uses for them...
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