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Could Science Build a Radicalized Muslim Detector?

Could Science Build a Radicalized Muslim Detector?

    How hard would it be to build a device that can accurately detect a radicalized Muslim?

    Answer: Probably easier than you think.

    I assume the only obstacles to building such a device are the ethical considerations. But if you can get past that – and as a thought experiment only – allow me to describe a system that would work to detect a radicalized Muslim nearly every time.

    All you need to do is create an ever-evolving set of provocative sentences and images that are similar to the types that terrorist recruiters use. Those are the same images that will trigger brain excitement in someone who has been radicalized.

    Then run tests on captured radicals to figure out which parts of their brains light up when they see images known to promote radicalization. Short exposure to the materials won’t accidentally radicalize an innocent person – so that isn’t a worry – but I’m sure the images would activate predictable parts of the brain in people already radicalized.

    I don’t think the public mood will allow a serious discussion of mandatory brain scans, but suppose we developed a fast-track for immigrants who volunteer for the tests. No one would force anyone to submit to a brain scan. It would simply be another path for some of the peace-loving people to get through.

    If you are worried that a dedicated terrorist could practice viewing these sorts of images until he could beat the test, that is unlikely. The images and sentences could be changed up every week to keep them fresh. And in the event that a terrorist managed to practice until the images in the genre had no power over his brain, that person would have effectively hypnotized himself out of being a terrorist. (Seriously.)

    And in case you wondered, we could also use brain scanning technologies to A-B test ways to DE-radicalize prisoners of war through persuasion. With A-B testing, Tony Robbins could turn the Guantanamo Bay prisoners into cheerful butlers for the wealthy. It would take him about a day.

    That’s a slight exaggeration. 

    I think it would take a month.

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