Hacking of the Brain: Is it Possible?

26 February, 2021
Is it possible for our brains to be hacked? It might sound like something from science fiction. However, it's true that our thoughts and emotions can be changed and conditioned by others.

While we’re all worried about current political situations and the emergence of new ideologies, technology tends to pass us by. However, perhaps we should direct some of our worry towards the kind of technology that enables brain hacking.

Although it might sound like a sci-fi story, to a certain extent, brain hacking’s already possible. For example, we all tend to think that our feelings and thoughts originate from our own personal freedoms and, consequently, our actions. However, that’s incorrect. In fact, many conditions determine how we think, feel, and act. Let’s find out what those conditions are.

A man and a huge brain.

Our choices aren’t free

The decisions we make depend on certain biological and social conditions that we can’t control. For example, we might think what we’re going to eat today is a totally free choice. In fact, it’s determined by our genes.

Firstly, we can only eat what our body tolerates. Secondly, our choice depends on our financial resources. After all, we can’t buy steak if we can’t afford it. There are even cultural factors at play here. For instance, if our culture doesn’t tolerate the consumption of dog meat, we won’t choose it.

“Fans hack systems, professionals hack people.”

 -Bruce Schneier-

Love is another example. Do we choose who we fall in love with? Usually not. Indeed, what these two examples prove is that the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis are mostly beyond our control. Indeed, we don’t freely decide what to feel or what we want. There are limitations.

Brain hacking and free will

The belief in free will has a huge consequence. Indeed, if companies or governments are going to hack into brains, the ones that’ll be easiest to manipulate are the ones who believe they have free will.

Three things are necessary for brain hacking. A solid knowledge of biology, a lot of data, and great computing power. With these three elements, it’s possible for brain hackers to predict the choices we all make. Furthermore, they can even manipulate our feelings.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.”

 -Yoda, Star Wars

Hacking of the brain

Fake news is another encroachment on our freedom. When we unknowingly read news that isn’t true and believe it, we think we’ve freely chosen whether to believe it or not. However, the truth is that someone’s hacked our brains. Indeed, the person who created the news has hacked our brains to make us believe that something false is true. Consequently, in effect, it’s possible to hack a brain.

In addition, with all the information we now share on social networks, we create algorithms that predict our preferences. Based on those preferences, fake news that’s in line with what we think can be created. Furthermore, fake personalized messages can be created, which can be very convincing.

Obviously, this isn’t new. In fact, advertising’s been doing this forever. However, with the surge of the Internet and social networks, there’s now more information available about people. This means that messages can be customized even further. Feelings of fear, hatred, and greed are often perpetuated in this manner. For example, if you hate a particular person or a group, you’re going to believe everything bad you’re told about them.

A diagram representing brain hacking.

What does the future hold?

It doesn’t stop there. For example, currently, lots of people wear heart-rate measurement devices. What if those devices were also to track our online searches? Or our credit card movements? Then the hackers could sell us any product or political ideology they choose. In this kind of scenario, does the voter really know what they’re agreeing to? Furthermore, is the customer always right?

Unfortunately, we seem to be moving backward. Instead of facing challenges, we tend to take refuge in even more remote illusions. In fact, we resort to religious and nationalist fantasies that are increasingly distant from reality.

However, we can escape. For this, we need to understand our weaknesses. Computers are hacked because they have defective codes. Humans are hacked through fear, hatred, prejudice, and desire. Hackers can’t create hatred and fear of nothing. However, once they know it exists in us, they know which buttons to press to increase it.

  • Harari, Y. N. (2016). Homo deus: Breve historia del mañana. Madrid: Debate.