Recently, while at a Phoenix, Arizona conference on UFOs, crop circles, alternative archaeology and other such fringe matters, I encountered, to my surprise, a true American hero. A straightforward and unassuming man whose father was a well-respected Alaskan congressman, Dr. Nick Begich has been waging a long and often lonely campaign to raise the public’s awareness of the extraordinary perils and potentials of new technologies that can act upon the brain and influence our cognitive and somatic capacities, often without us knowing about them. At first, many of the military initiatives and scientific research projects described by Dr. Begich sound like science fiction — the stuff of Philip K. Dick’s most paranoid visions — but they are quite real, and in many cases already available. A huge trove of documents, articles and public testimonies assembled by Begich’s team can be found at the website of The Lay Institute.
Confronted with this information, I was shocked at first, and wondered why it is almost never discussed in the media or public sphere. My next reaction was to want to run away from thinking about it ever again. Unfortunately, as Begich makes clear, the only protection we have against misuse of these discoveries is an increase in public knowledge and debate about them. The legislative system we inherited from the 18th Century was not set up to deal with the current scenario, where rapid-fire developments in technology and science have immediate political meaning and potentially great social consequences. It is up to civil society — and us as individuals — to step into this breach. The consequences of not doing so may be severe.