This article was partially inspired by, and can be seen as a follow-up to, one of Rich Lee’s excellent articles. Near the end, he briefly describes one of his diabolical plots, in which he would set up an elaborate system of drug dealers and opiate junkies to get as many of them as possible on Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) – for a fee, of course. However, one of the interesting parts ofthe full description is where he speculates on some possible mechanisms of distribution. One of the paths he considers is to get some small countries convinced that DBS would help problems with crime and general compliance with authority.
I wouldn’t stop there, though. Why only go halfway when you can eliminate a second problem at the same time? Here’s my own diabolical plot: we convince some repressive dictatorship that DBS can help their population be more compliant with authority. My first temptation would be to go to China, since they’ve recently been having issues with compliance. However, since they have a large engineering population, and likely a large engineering team, they probably wouldn’t be as likely to listen to a rag-tag grinder. With that in mind, I’d probably end up going to some small country instead.
However, in building the DBS device, we also include a backdoor, where a switch can actually trigger greater rebellion. For example, Oppositional Defiant Disorder may be triggered by an imbalance in neurotransmitters, particularly serotonin.
I think you can see where to go from here. We convince the government to implant a significant portion of its population with a DBS, wait a few months to make sure they’re satisfied with it, and then flip the switch. Voilà, we’ve just single-handedly toppled an authoritarian regime.
Okay, I’m being somewhat facetious with that plot schematic, but it does make an important point: authoritarianism has no place in the era of biohackers and grinders. It’s not just ethically untenable, but also practically unworkable.
Our technology and hacker ethic give us a powerful weapon to use. While we probably wouldn’t forcibly implant people with a DBS to increase rebellion, if we could convince people to have it done voluntarily, those with power would have a fight on their hands. If the state outlaws this procedure, we’ll go abroad or into the black market. They can’t stop us.
You may object at this point that technology goes both ways; while it empowers the people, it also empowers the state. On some level, this may be true. For example, when the Founding Fathers were talking about the right to bear arms, they were talking about guns and bayonets; now, a state could potentially level an entire city in an instant. In terms of raw firepower, they’ve got us completely outgunned.
Yet, we don’t need to fight this battle with guns; we can hit the state where it hurts with a minimum of guns. After all, the state’s funding to make its weapons comes from us. General strikes have in the past come close to bringing entire countries to their knees (see the French revolt of 1969), and the hactivism of the modern age can only help us – and, indeed, thus far it’s done precisely that. Just ask the people criticizing WikiLeaks.
In sum, while technology is no substitute for political activism, it can only be an excellent ally in the fight against tyranny.