Our reporter from "DEMOCRACY R.I.P" went along to the Tavistock Institute London to interview leading neuroscientist Professor Kurt Lobe who works there as scientific advisor. It was in relation to a recent article published in the Washington Post concerning new discoveries in brain functioning.
We put several searching questions to the eminent scientist currently in line for a Nobel Prize for his work in the field. He proved affable with a great sense of humour... up to a point. Here is our report.
Q: Much of your work has to do with brain functioning, genetics and so forth. This raises fundamental questions about responsibility and free will.
Lobe (laughing): As a materialist, of course, I don't believe in free will. It is a useful illusion.
Q: Really? And what specific uses do you see your work having?
Lobe: Value and uncertainty, as any stockbroker will readily inform you, is the bedrock of commerce and economic life in general. One tries, even in one's own humdrum existence, to mitigate risk and increase profit. That is how you pick a horse in the Grand National. (Laughing)
Q: And there is a part of the brain that is actually devoted to this process?
Lobe: The frontal cordex is involved in the problem of value versus uncertainty and we are analyzing this area in depth at present. There are two main decision-making systems in the brain, the Pavlovian or goal-directed region and the automatic pilot region. We know now how precisely these work and interact. We have a ways to go naturally before we understand the brain in its entirety. We are particularly interested in the hard-wired regions and whether these can be made more malleable.
Q: And how will this affect the ordinary Muggle in the street?
Lobe: We are developing drugs to influence the expectation-reward functions of the brain. It will soon be possible to improve efficiency in the ageing brain as well. Big bucks there for the pharmaceuticals. Did I say that? Ritalin and various anti-dopamine products will be designer modified to control impulsive behaviour. The side-effects of Ritalin have been grossly exaggerated. L-Dopa has been more profitable...er... beneficial... apart from its tendency to stimulate the vomiting centre of the brain... but we are working on this. And a new product will be available soon.
Q: Can you tell us what you think the social implications of your research might be?
Lobe: Any product that can enhance decision making would be a boon to investors, corporate managers, insurance companies and the like. Some things going on in the brain, we are finding, are mathematically predictable and we are looking at our research in this light. Millions are wasted each year from wrong decisions at every level of industry, economic planning and politics. Bureaucracy has been tightened to deal with the ground-swell of misfortunes resulting from this. We are now beginning to look at more direct ways of dealing with the problem. That is why this research is so important. From our marketing analyses we can say irrefutably that over ninety percent of people are in favour of such medical enhancements to their brain performance.
Q: What about natural, homeopathic aids such as vitamins, exercise, meditation and the like?
Lobe: Oh, come on! If I have to talk to you, please let us have a serious discussion about this, shall we?
Q: Do you believe in God?
Lobe: I believe in evolution.
Q: How would you describe the main goal of your research?
Lobe: Er... well... we... my colleagues and I.... would hope... that...
Q: Who, in fact, funds you?
Lobe: I am trying to answer your question... if you will let me! Our goal, of course... er, is to cure mental illness.
Q: Would you describe drug dependency as a mental illness?
Lobe: Our surveys make it clear....
Q: Exactly, all you have talked about is drugs and the manufacture of drugs. Who actually funds you, may I ask again?
Lobe: I'd rather not answer that question.
Q: Have you any ethical concerns about this research of yours reaching the wrong hands?
Lobe: We cannot be held responsible for that. There is a risk factor in everything.
Q: Like nuclear energy?
Lobe: That's an unfair analogy.
Q: Have you ever considered getting yourself an honourable job, Mister Lobe, where you can be of some real help to the human race... like bus driver or something?
Lobe: Gettafuck outta my office you moron!... before I have you removed!! (Not laughing).