Tag Archives: BRAIN Initiative

Obama’s “BRAIN” Initiative

human brain_lightbulb Just this week, President Obama announced a major scientific initiative that would lead us into the next great frontier: The “BRAIN” Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). This initiative, the details of which are scarce and not yet fleshed out according to Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institute of Health, has a price tag of $100m. It’s being sold not just as an advancement in the fields of science and medicine, but one that will, you guessed it, stimulate the economy and create jobs.

One can only guess the true motivation behind the BRAIN initiative; in fact, heads of two leading neurological research organizations have called into question the goals and intentions underlying the President’s proposal.

Dr. Susan Fitzpatrick of the James S. McDonnell Foundation, a leading funding source for neuroscientific research, characterized her reaction to the announcement as one of “befuddlement,” largely because she’s “not quite sure what the initiative is.” Likewise, Dr. David Hovda of the Brain Injury Research Center at UCLA said, “This sounds more like a PR splash,” promising more than it will be able to deliver, than anything of real substance.

Perhaps the President has been somewhat inspired by the recent brain research coming out of The University of New Mexico, the findings of which were recently published by Dr. Kent Kiehl in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Some might see a loose connection between the UNM study and the fictional science in the major motion picture Minority Report.

While Dr. Kiehl’s findings don’t actually argue that we can accurately predict an individual’s predisposition to commit a specific crime (in a specific time and place, as the movie’s “pre-crime unit” suggests), his team of scientists has discovered a particular activity in the brain (impulsivity) that is directly correlated with recidivism rates. The findings indicate that criminals with low levels of impulsivity control are four times more likely to repeat offend and end up back in jail in as little as four months.

Dr. Kiehl suggests that this brain science could be used as part of a review or parole process when determining whether or not a convicted criminal is ready to re-enter society. There are clear ethical implications to this science, but it is possible that this administration is seeing some ways to connect the dots between some of its other, more nefarious initiatives (i.e., the drones program) and neuroscience.

Again, because the details of the proposal have not yet been released – and the current leaders in the neuroscience research fields haven’t been consulted on this initiative at all – one can only speculate on the objectives of the research. Left with no details on the proposal, and understanding that Congress will have to approve the funding before we can learn the details of the plan, skeptics of the President are likely to see this as yet another among many steps he’s taken to move us closer to the dystopian worlds of popular film and literature, where maybe the next “great” frontier will include Thought Police.

 

Another “Good Idea” From Obama

brain

Here comes yet another “good idea” from Dear Leader Barack Hussein Obama. He proposes that we taxpayers spend $100 million next year in order to begin a brain mapping project. He says the BRAIN Initiative could create jobs, and it will “… revolutionize our understanding of the human mind.” Obama says the research has the potential to improve the lives of billions of people worldwide. But (and there’s always a “but” when Obama is involved), the $100 million is expected to be “seed money” for a project that could take over a decade to complete.

There is, however, one slight problem: project goal(s). A working group at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will work on defining the goals and develop a multi-year plan to achieve them. NIH will receive about $20 million in FY2014 above its initial budget for its services.

Obama said, while proposing the BRAIN Initiative at the White House:

“Ideas are what power our economy. When we invest in the best ideas before anybody else does, our businesses and our workers can make the best products and deliver the best services before anybody else.”

There’s that word “invest” again. Any idea that he favors is an “investment.”

Anyway, the last time Obama had an idea, we all know what happened. Obama said that he called upon numerous smart people in order to grow the economy. We are still waiting for the economy to grow.

“Today I’ve invited some of the smartest people in the country, some of the most imaginative and effective researchers in the country – some very smart people to talk about the challenge that I issued in my State of the Union address: to grow our economy, to create new jobs, to reignite a rising, thriving middle class by investing in one of our core strengths, and that’s American innovation.”

I guess that idea was an investment as well. There is nothing wrong with making investments or having ideas. Problems arise, however, when Obama surrounds himself and/or taps what he calls “smart people” that are nothing more than “yes” men. And the most painful part is that we taxpayers get to pay for his investments and ideas.

All of this despite sequestration.

But that’s just my opinion
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