DARPA and Narrative Detection

Edward Bernays' engineering of the invasion of Guatemala and the overthrow of it's government to ensure a docile and well-supplied consumer base, the US government and its military apparatus have been responsible for some of the most compelling storytelling of the last century. Compelling dozens of regime changes.

A week or so ago DARPA (where the military get all their toys) called for research to establish a way to neuro-chemically detect the influence of storytelling on individuals and to help identify those who might be 'vulnerable' to the tendrils of fiction.

DARPA is soliciting innovative research proposals in the areas of (1)
quantitative analysis of narratives, (2) understanding the effects narratives
have on human psychology and its affiliated neurobiology, and (3) modeling,
simulating, and sensing-especially in stand-off modalities-these narrative
influences. Proposers to this effort will be expected to revolutionize the study
of narratives and narrative influence by advancing narrative analysis and
neuroscience so as to create new narrative influence sensors, doubling status
quo capacity to forecast narrative influence.

WIRED also recently dropped an article about this. ALthough the entire thing is fascinating it presents several interesting branches of enquiry which will probably never be publically exposed and areas that I myself may chose to pursue.

  • The neurochemical reduction of narratives: Is it possible for a series of chemicals to encode an entire story in, much like DNA? Apparently DARPA is vaguely freewheeling toward a piece of hardware that would be able to 'sniff-out' certain narratives based on the chemical effect they have on a user's brain. We then have to question in what context this might be applied.

  • Would these devices be used in interrogation as opposed to current lie-detection methodologies? Or could they be used in a checkpoint-like scenario whereby people are sniffer-tested for the influences that narratives are having on them, either with an aim to sniff out potential insurgents or to create census data of the influence of certain groups in a certain area.

  • In the second instance, could this be conducted from an aerial point of view perhaps equipped to unmanned drones to survey large tracts of land for the influence of certain narratives?

  • The physicality of the device itself would be interesting to explore, whether this device would necessarily be invasive or something passive that could be used without the consent or awareness of those being 'surveyed.'