CNN has a front page article by Paul Wolpe, an ethicist at Emory State University, who argues that new brain scanning software could one day be reliable enough for courts to order it used to read the thoughts of a criminal suspect, just as they currently order things like DNA testing. He feels that this would be a bad thing, because it would eliminate the last bastion of privacy that people have left. He even suggests that this usurps God, who presumably is the only one who can read our thoughts.
This is ironic on several levels. After railing about how nobody should be able to read our thoughts, he admits that most formulations of religion propose a God who can read our thoughts. He is very worried that the government may some day get some pale imitation of this ability, but he forgets about God's self-appointed representatives on Earth. I am speaking of those individuals and organizations that claim to speak for God and claim to worship God, but actually secretly believe themselves to be God -- religious fanatics and their extremist churches. I am quite sure that they would want this technology even more than government. If we ban government from ever using such devices, churches will certainly not want this restriction placed on them. This would be the perfect tool to ferret out heresy, and to verify that the brainwashing they try to impose on their cult-like followers has actually taken hold. Make no mistake. This technology, if it is developed, will be used. Churches would pay fortunes to have these things, and they have huge, ill-gotten fortunes to spend on it.
Of course, as with all Luddite arguments, which is the species of argument Wolpe is making, however well-intentioned he believes his exception to be, no such ban would work whatsoever. We already have the CIA waterboarding people, and presidential candidates like Cain and Bachmann say that this is a wonderful thing. The CIA will certainly use mind reading technologies, if they become available, no matter what the law says. So will lots of other people. One imagines that criminal organizations, such as the mafia, or drug cartels will also use it extensively. We might officially ban it from use by the "big, bad guv'ment", but there are plenty of other aspiring "bigger brothers" out there besides the government who would love to do what we are prohibiting the government from doing. Even right now, many private firms use polygraphs and other computerized voice-stress test equipment on employees, despite the fact that these devices have no scientific validity and can be easily fooled. The idea that they would stop out of pure concern for "ethics" is beyond absurd....which is BTW the problem with most Ivory Tower ethicists today. They say things that are beyond absurd and expect the rest of us to take them seriously.