Monday, March 09, 2009

President Obama's Brave New Brain Implant

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Barak Obama's addiction to the teleprompter is becoming a sore point with White House insiders. Not the addiction itself, but rather the fact that people are beginning to notice. In fact, Mr. Obama cannot give a simple four minute announcement without spoon-feeding from a teleprompter.

This unseemly dependency has prompted White House aides to pursue a less conspicuous way of feeding the president his lines. That is how the idea of a brain implant for Mr. Obama came up in conference recently. Caught between a rock (Mr. Obama's inability to speak publicly without prompting) and a hard place (the fact that Mr. Obama's handicap is being noticed beyond deniability), the White House Office of Perpetual Campaigning is considering the technology option. The only question now seems to be, "how to do it?"

A bionic eye implant may seem at first glance a plausible plan. But a few moment's thought should make it obvious that the "camera glasses" Mr. Obama would have to wear to make the bionic eyes work would be an unsightly obstacle to the president's facial expression magic.

When faced with the shortcomings of plan A, one White House counsel suggested a brain implant without the glasses. But there was the problem of how the implant would receive the signal transmitting the president's speech to his brain. Would he wear an antenna on his head? "No," scoffed another aide, "The president's hair is too short to conceal an antenna and power supply for the implant."

"Then what about using an implant that uses photoelectrodes instead of electrical signals? You could covertly beam the speech to an array of fiberoptics cunningly concealed in the president's hair!" yet another aide enthused.

"I've got a better idea," interjected Rahm Emanuel over the intercom. "How about using a focused ultrasonic brain stimulator? You wouldn't need any kind of receiver or antenna then!"

Everyone turned to look at the only scientist in the group, a neuropsychologist on loan from MIT. What did he suggest? "Well, there have been some embarrassing side effects from brain implants in the past. If the president started to ... you know ... in the middle of a State of the Union Address, or in high level talks with the Chinese Premier ... "

For a moment, there was only silence in the room as White House aides contemplated the enormous risks of their mission. Then, over the intercom came the voice of WHCOS Emanuel: "we could always include a 'kill switch' in the device signal." The suggestion was greeted with gasps and moans. "No, no, not that kind of a kill switch. Just a type of 'reset switch' that causes him to lose consciousness temporarily so that a medical team can rush him out, in case he starts to do something too embarassing."

With that explanation, the tension blew out of the room as from a runaway balloon. They were all in agreement, it would be done. Just how it would be done, and who could be trusted to do it secretly was another matter, for another conference. But that is how government works. That is just how government works.

First published at Al Fin

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