You may never have heard of Darren Brown, the amazing British illusionist who accomplished his tricks through an extraordinary gift for neuro-linguistic programming, nor, indeed, may you have heard of neuro-linguistic programming. But the idea is, I suspect, rather self-evident from the terminology used to describe it: programming the mind through the clever manipulation of words and concepts, to effect/affect a change in the neurophysiological pathways of a target's brain itself.
Well, now DARPA, the Defense Advance Projects Research Agency is in on the act, so phys.org is reporting:
We're first informed that on first glance such a project seems silly, after all, the article reassuringly coos, governments have been seeking ways to brainwash people for centuries, without much success, a statement that I find somewhat ridiculous on the face of it. Haven't the writers at phys.org heard of Adolf Hitler, or Reich Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels? It would seem that, through a combination of carefully calculated terror, social programs, and relentless mass media propaganda, that this was a relatively successful case of brainwashing an entire nation - or at least enough of it to get the rest of the population "on board."
But after issuing its reassuring clucks and chirps, phys.org informs us that new technologies - the ability to scan brains and record transformations in the neurophysiology as certain messages are received - is now advanced enough to record minor transformations. This too, should give one pause.
For those of us old enough to remember, it was not so long ago that a sweating Richard Helms was sitting in front of the committee of Idaho US Senator Frank Church, fumbling for words on the CIA's notorious mind-control project, MK-Ultra, an outgrowth of an even earlier project at mind control, Artichoke, which in turn appears to have been a postwar American continuation of the Nazi efforts to study the parameters of mind control during World War Two.
Back to Helms and his sweating brow... as the Church committee was wound down, we were assured by Helms and others that MK-Ultra was not successful and that the project was simply closed down (or that it just petered out, depending on which version of the story one reads).
This is the real significance of the article at phys.org, for it would appear that the project was never wound down, it simply became practical enough, with the advance of technology, to move to the offices of DARPA in Arlington, Virginia. To be sure, DARPA has given us a lot of goofy projects (remember that one about trying to build a halfnium isomer bomb?)... but they also gave us the internet. And that should give you pause. It does me.