Liar, Liar, Brain on Fire

Between polygraphs and brain fingerprinting, there is no question that lie detection devices are a sought after commodity.  The U.S government is currently funding brain fingerprinting, a lie detection device combining EEG and the guilty knowledge test to identify lying. The inventor of the method, Lawrence Farwell, claims that he can detect if information given to an individual is novel or known by “reading” his/ her brain waves. But I wonder, what if a question contains sentimental value or reminds the interrogated individual of a memory? Would this register as “known” information as opposed to novel? And in this case, could the lie detector be inaccurate? This device seems to be too good to be true. According to the brain fingerprinting website, if it truly works than it could be used for national security purposes, court judgments, advertising, medical diagnoses, and forensics.  According to investigations by Farwell, the FBI, the CIA, and the Navy, the test is accurate 99% of the time. But why hasn’t it replaced polygraphs yet, and why isn’t it getting large-scale media coverage?

While I can see the importance of identifying criminals, and reducing the amount of innocent individuals in prison, I am concerned by the potential of misuse. There are major ethical dilemmas at hand.  How would these machines be regulated and who would be authorized to read it?  Should only the FBI and the CIA be able to use these devices? In addition, how much weight should be given to the evidence this machine produces? Will this machine replace lawyers and juries in the future? Will it be used at every airport to prevent terrorism? Would one have to give consent to have their minds read.  How can we regulate privacy of the mind? And who deserves this privacy?

Check out the brain fingerprinting website!!

One thought on “Liar, Liar, Brain on Fire

  1. This is really tough, Ellie! As we discussed in class (great job leading the discussion!) this whole concept feels very eerie and it seems almost impossible to me to set up rules and guidelines about its use. Obviously there are situations where this technology would be very helpful and useful, but I see an issue of boundaries arising.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s