Neuroscience offers the prospect of an incontrovertible record of the intentions behind everything we do, so jury trials may eventually be deemed unnecessary. But no chip implanted? Guilty as charged!

This video of a panel organised by the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, covers some of the highly disruptive legal ramifications of the latest developments in neuroscience, many of which are no less dramatic in their potential impact than the futuristic scenario above.

Back to my implant scenario for a moment:

No implant? No job offers, no entry to premises, including shops and (gated) streets. No insurance, no rights, no identity.

Not enough memory in a chip to store all those endless petabytes of neuroscan data?

No problem, our brains and their motivational states will always be online, at CerebroStreamTube Live!

We can even share our mental condition on psychosocial media such as CortexBook™ or our free-floating anxieties can be nanoblogged in real-time, once every 140 semantic samples, on Twititititer™.

If this whole seemingly ludicrously unrealistic scenario makes even the relentlessly oppressive meta-Orwellian Minority Report world seem rather relaxed by comparison, it’s worth reflecting upon the fact that for it to become reality, there isn’t a requirement for something fanciful, like Philip K. Dick’s supernaturally precogniscient pre-cogs in order for this particularly unnerving ‘no secrets’ state to come into existence.

It could be reasonably and convincingly argued that it just requires nothing more than a steady continuation of the current progress in neuroscience.

“And let’s face it, in a world where we’ve all become afraid of our own shadows, why take any risks and force your loved ones to live in a society where you can’t trust people?”

That last example of an understandable and seemingly benign risk-averse sentiment, combined with the availability of the kinds of technology described above could result in services like the one offered in this imaginary ad:

Invest now in SentiMental ™ and you can Open Source your soul.

Our neuro-scanning implantation service is offered at no charge to purchasers who consent to us uploading our exclusive BrandUbiqui™ app onto their implant.

Premium-paying subscribers, in addition to their implant, also get direct implantee-to-implantee social networking. ‘There’s nothing more social’.

If your are interested in the premium option, the good news is that you don’t need to worry about the price, or even about giving us your credit card details.

Once the implant is in, we’re 100% sure that you’ll insist on paying whatever it costs, sight unseen, to have that premium subscription, and we’ll take care of everything from that point onwards.

Once you’ve got SentiMental ™ on board, we’ll make sure that your conscience will be one thing that you’ll never have to worry about again.

The panel session in the video was called:

The Promises and Perils of Neuroscience Evidence in the Courtroom

The 2011 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference was held on Tuesday, August 16 at the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California


Judith H. Ramseyer, Esq., WAW

Member, Conference Executive Committee


Owen D. Jones, New York Alumni Chancellor’s Chair in Law & Professor of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University; Director, MacArthur Foundation Law and Neuroscience Project


Nita A. Farahany, Associate Professor of Law and Philosophy, Vanderbilt University

Hank Greely, Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law, Stanford Law School

Stephen J. Morse, Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology and Law in Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania

Here’s and extract from the Wikipedia article on Neurolaw:

Neurolaw is an emerging field of interdisciplinary study that explores the effects of discoveries in neuroscience on legal rules and standards.

Drawing from neuroscience, philosophy, social psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and criminology, neurolaw practitioners seek to address not only the descriptive and predictive issues of how neuroscience is and will be used in the legal system, but also the normative issues of how neuroscience should and should not be used.

The most prominent questions that have emerged from this exploration are as follows:

    • To what extent can a tumour or brain injury alleviate criminal punishment?
    • Can sentencing or rehabilitation regulations be influenced by neuroscience?
    • Who is permitted access to images of a person’s brain?

Neuroscience is beginning to address these questions in its effort to understand human behaviour, and will potentially shape future aspects of legal processes.

New insights into the psychology and cognition of the brain have been made available by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

These new technologies were a break from the conventional and primitive views of the brain that have been prevalent in the legal system for centuries.

Brain imaging has provided a much deeper insight into thought processes, and will have an effect on the law because it contests customary beliefs about mental development.

Because the science is still developing and because there is substantial opportunity for misuse, the legal realm recognizes the need to proceed cautiously.

Neurolaw enthusiasts are quick to find means to apply neuroscience in a variety of different contexts.

For example, intellectual property could be better evaluated through neuroscience.

Major areas of current research include applications in the courtroom, how neuroscience can and should be used legally, and how the law is created and applied.