First it was Joss Whedon making zombie apocalypse preparedness a central issue in the latter days of the Presidential campaign. Then it was memos authorizing drone strikes on American citizens so long as they didn’t accidentally venture into domestic territory. Along the way, there was an asteroid, conveniently timed to wipe out DC ahead of sequestration talks, and a lead-in column by noted astrophysicist Paul Krugman on the advantages of asteroid strikes and alien invasions for the American economy.
And now, because this plot-of-a-science-fiction novel is not enough, the Obama Administration is about to unveil plans for a decade long, multi-agency foray into the operation of the human brain.
The Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics.
The project, which the administration has been looking to unveil as early as March, will include federal agencies, private foundations and teams of neuroscientists and nanoscientists in a concerted effort to advance the knowledge of the brain’s billions of neurons and gain greater insights into perception, actions and, ultimately, consciousness
There’s the notable problem with this – that a private university or privately-funded research group would be better situated for such an undertaking – and then there’s the less notable problem of the National Institute for Health already has a project to map the brain. This one is a different project (of course) and expected to cost billions, with the exact number to be in Obama’s mystical budget document due out next month.
The good news is, obviously, that all science fiction movies that celebrate large projects designed to map the brain ultimately end in the destruction of humanity, or the development of a race of nano-technology driven super-soldiers who drive First World nations headlong into tyrannical dystopias. But at least that’s usually when we discover either a benevolent human force of the ability of the American spirit to triumph in dark times. So there’s that.