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Recent Reads

José M.R. Delgado, M.D., Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilized Society – This is a book for the hardcore materialist atheist in the family. Jose Delgado, M.D. was Professor of Physiology at Yale University when this was written. Like all the Darwinists he evidently was a fan of Aristotle. He quotes Aristotle’s principle that “nothing is in the intellect which was not first in the senses” and agrees with Aristotle that the newborn mind is a blank tablet.

Delgado reckons that consciousness is “a rather expensive luxury in terms of time and effort”. People do things like stopping at a red light, he says, without thinking. The mind is only born when the infant “recognises objects and persons associated with positive and negative reinforcement”.

After some tiresome preamble, Delgado cuts to the chase with Chapter 14: Hell and Heaven Within the Brain: The Systems for Punishment and Reward. Delgado was one of the people responsible for Electronic Stimulation of the Brain, via a stimoceiver. Depending where electrodes are inserted in the brain, different results happen when the electricity is cranked up.

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Scientists these days just generally experiment on animals. Delgado worked on monkeys, chimps, cats, crickets, roosters, dolphins and “brave bulls”. He also worked on humans. By a twist of a dial he could increase or decrease a woman’s anxiety. He also made a patient throw aside a guitar and attack a wall. A usually reserved patient suddenly kissing her therapist’s hands. A male patient suddenly said he wanted to marry his interviewer and then declared, “I’d like to be a girl”. When the ESB was turned off, people were shocked at the change that had come over them. “I don’t know what came over me. I felt like an animal,” was one comment.

Delgado states the advantage of ESB over psychoanalysis: “Psychoanalysis requires a long time and a person can easily withdraw co-operation and refuse to express intimate thoughts.” ESB however “can set a determined behavioral tone”. He says it can be used for “habitual criminal conduct”. In addition, a two way radio communication system between brain and computer can be set up. The person being monitored can be administered “specific inhibition structures” at the onset of emotions such as anxiety, rage or depression, he says. Direct knowledge will be gained about the “cerebral basis for human behavior”. He reckons that “genes determine reaction or response”.

Much of the book concerns details of unpleasant looking experiments on monkeys, chimps and cats, including lots of distressing photos of animals with implants stuck on their heads. I was unsure of Delgado’s grasp on reality, as accompanying photos of a contorted cat, he writes that while the cat was administered 1.8 milliamps of electricity, it was “alert and friendly as usual, rubbing its head against the experimenter, seeking to be petted, and purring.” Yeah, right! He says that the cat was made to jump from one table to another while being given 2 milliamps and that this made the cat uncoordinated and that it fell and landed badly. Another photo shows a cat reaching out to a paddle on a wall, that Delgado was conditioning it to do to stop the pain administered by ECB.

As vile as this book is, at least Delgado is honest about the means of how science will affect people’s behavior/human values. The book is called Physical Control of the Mind, after all. Chapter 15, Hallucinations, Recollections and Illusions in Man mentions how implants can induce effects that could be interpreted as symptoms of schizophrenia, including the induction of complex hallucinations, illusions, emotions, vivid dream like experiences and “forced thinking (sterotyped thoughts crowding into the mind)”. Monkeys are made to fall asleep instantly. A chimp is made to avoid a banana. A bull is made to abandon a charge at Delgado and instead circles him, lifting its leg and turning its head. Delgado also states how ESB was used to disrupt the mother-infant relationship of two monkeys and caused the mother to self-harm. He doesn’t say whether his intention is for this application of ESB to be used on human mothers and babies.

I regard this book as a potent warning on the potential risk to society posed by scientists apparently acting as variants of Dr. Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s novel. There’s more on Dr. Delgado in The Mind Manipulators, which is well worth tracking down.
– Johns, “The Application of Science to Determine Human Values”

Emily Anthes, Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts – Medicine-producing goats, a glowing beagle, and remote-controlled rats seem like science fiction, but not only are they scientifically possible, they’re already here. Welcome to the weird world of animal biotechnology presented by journalist Anthes. Genetic alteration has allowed us to change animals in ways never before possible. The book is a quick, often surprising review of current advances, giving accessible treatment to a weighty subject and employing clear descriptions of complex science. Anthes not only explores what is being done but also asks why and if it should be done. Along the way, the book reveals much about humans and our connections to animals and the world we all inhabit. These animals are not just in labs. Glowing fish and steerable cockroaches are being sold, and a cloned cat has been accepted into a home after her research days were finished. Cyborg beetles and much more are a reality today, and their existence prompts us to wonder where our responsibility lies when pursuing our ever-growing power to play with the animal kingdom.
– Bridget Thoreson, Booklist, The New York Times

Harry Ferguson, Spy: A Handbook – This book ties in strongly with the UK show “Spy” in which eight candidates went through a spy school and learned the fundamentals of espionage. Harry Ferguson, the author, was one of the tutors.

The book relates what occurred on the television show, but gives considerable theoretical background as to the reasons why the tutors staged each exercise and what its goals were as well as the reasons why the candidates succeeded or failed.

It is a very interesting book and can be enjoyed thoroughly both in isolation from, or conjunction with, the show.
– David Williams, “Insightful reality show gives espionage insights”

Robert Wallace, H. Keith Melton, and Henry R. Schlessingerm, Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA’s Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda – Today’s CIA is regularly criticized for emphasizing technology at the expense of human intelligence. In this history of the agency’s Office of Technical Services, Wallace, its former head, and academic specialist Melton (Ultimate Spy) refute the charge with exciting content and slam-bang style. The book’s chief value is its perspective on the synergy of technology and tradecraft. From WWII through the Cold War and up to the present, the authors say, technical equipment—for clandestine audio surveillance, for example—has been an essential element of agent operations. In the post–Cold War information society, technology plays an even more significant role in fighting terrorism. Agents remain important, along with their traditional skills. Increasingly, however, they support clandestine technical operations, especially infiltrating and compromising computer networks. The authors persuasively argue that employing and defending against sophisticated digital technology is the primary challenge facing U.S. intelligence in the 21st century. Their position invites challenge, but it cannot be dismissed. 32 pages of photos, over 100 b&w illus. throughout.
– Publishers Weekly

H. Keith Melton and Robert Wallace, The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception – Intelligence historian Melton and retired CIA officer Wallace (coauthors of Spycraft) reunite for this unremarkable reproduction of a long-lost cold war–era relic. In 1953, the fledgling CIA hired professional magician John Mulholland to adapt his techniques of stealth and misdirection to the craft of espionage. Mulholland produced two illustrated manuals featuring a range of tricks from placing pills into drinks to stealing documents and avoiding detection. The classified manuals were believed to have been destroyed in 1973, but the authors discovered a copy in 2007 among recently declassified CIA archives. The manuals are reproduced along with enhanced illustrations and an extended introduction by Melton and Wallace. Despite the authors’ best efforts to promote their discovery of Mulholland’s work as a rare piece of historical evidence of the CIA’s legacy of black arts, the manuals, with their earnest, how-to descriptions of surreptitiously spiking drinks, palming documents and signaling colleagues with a feather in a hat band seem more quaintly anachronistic than revealing or sinister.
– Publishers Weekly

Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA – Is the Central Intelligence Agency a bulwark of freedom against dangerous foes, or a malevolent conspiracy to spread American imperialism? A little of both, according to this absorbing study, but, the author concludes, it is mainly a reservoir of incompetence and delusions that serves no one’s interests well. Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times correspondent Weiner musters extensive archival research and interviews with top-ranking insiders, including former CIA chiefs Richard Helms and Stansfield Turner, to present the agency’s saga as an exercise in trying to change the world without bothering to understand it. Hypnotized by covert action and pressured by presidents, the CIA, he claims, wasted its resources fomenting coups, assassinations and insurgencies, rigging foreign elections and bribing political leaders, while its rare successes inspired fiascoes like the Bay of Pigs and the Iran-Contra affair. Meanwhile, Weiner contends, its proper function of gathering accurate intelligence languished. With its operations easily penetrated by enemy spies, the CIA was blind to events in adversarial countries like Russia, Cuba and Iraq and tragically wrong about the crucial developments under its purview, from the Iranian revolution and the fall of communism to the absence of Iraqi WMDs. Many of the misadventures Weiner covers, at times sketchily, are familiar, but his comprehensive survey brings out the persistent problems that plague the agency. The result is a credible and damning indictment of American intelligence policy.
– Publishers Weekly

Tim Weiner, multiple Pulitzer Prize winner, longtime New York Times reporter, and the author of Betrayal: The Story of Aldrich Ames, an American Spy (1995) and Blank Check: The Pentagon’s Black Budget (1991) hits his marks in Legacy of Ashes. Drawing on more than 50,000 documents and 300 on-the-record interviews with key players (10 of them former directors of the agency; all of the book’s many notes and quotations are attributed), Weiner treats his subject with a ruthless, journalistic eye, skewering Republican and Democratic administrations alike for the CIA’s slide into mediocrity. One critic finds a weakness in Weiner’s exuberant dismantling of the old guard at the expense of more contemporary analysis. Still, this is an important book that will capture the attention of anyone interested in the CIA’s checkered history.
– Bookmarks Magazine


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