This is the official Perth blog site for posts, comments, and other contributions about leadership, behavioral finance and economics, and about management generally, as well as other related topics that take our fancy.
Font size: +

Could brain phishing hijack a leader’s strategies?


Did you see that Microsoft has developed software and a website that can guess your age just by looking at a photo? No more lying about our age I guess.

And I suppose you have seen the numerous reports about how researchers can now identify your emotions based on brainwaves seen from MRI scans? So now we’re cutting off yet another avenue for creative obfuscation.

But now you don’t even need a connection to MRI to ready your thoughts. That’s because there are now brain-computer interfaces that don’t need such a connection because they can use radio communication interfaces from your brain. That has already resulted in mind-controlled prostheses such as for arms, in one case, two arms simultaneously.

It’s pretty clear that within a couple of years at most, brain-computer interfaces using radio communications will be routine in many areas. See for example advertisements on the web to help you build your own brain-controlled helicopter drone using off-the-shelf components.

So now we have to worry about protecting our brains from others who would like to use it for their own nefarious purposes. At first some of these uses might appear to be (relatively) harmless such as checking your emotions to see if you are a terrorist. For example a security device that checks your emotional stout as you go through security at work, or maybe when you go through TSA inspection at the airport.

But once you can start checking someones brains for stuff like this, where does it end? Does my girlfriend really like me? What are my kids thinking? Is my boss going to fire me? You can see where this doesn’t end.

But even that doesn’t start to highlight what could really happen. If I can do these things by radio, maybe I can hack into your brain to make it think things that will result in something bad happening. Maybe I hack you to get your brain to stop your pacemaker. Or maybe to get your prostheses to do something you wouldn’t like them to do, like striking someone, or worse? Could I get hack a pilot to crash an airport deliberately using my iPad from the plane seat in the back of a plane? Or get the US President to press the Big Red Button?

Is it possible that brain hackers could get into a leader’s brain and hijack his leadership strategies so that they now meet their objectives instead of the leader’s? Could this be the ultimate way of winning a war; by taking over the brains of the leadership instead of trying to kill them all?

We are moving into an era of brain phishing. So if my brain is being hacked, how do I know it? If I get a sudden urge to smack someone, it is me or a hacker? Will psychosis now be con-mingled with the claim that the sufferer has been hacked? How do we distinguish between self-will and outside influence? Between social influences that are benign from “benign” or “legitimate” brain hacking? Between benign and malignant penetration of our thoughts?

And what do you do about it? Are there certain techniques to identify if your brain is being phished? Certain behaviors that can prevent or reduce it? Will meditation help? Mindfulness training? Or are these techniques still to be developed? Who is going to do that? Not the NSA we hope. What are the ethics of getting psychiatrists involved?

So cybersecurity is not just how to protect a computer from viruses. Not even about shielding my iPhone from hackers trying to get my passwords. Pretty soon it’s going to be about how to protect my brain from prying eyes and how to stop bad people using my brain to do bad things that I wouldn’t want to happen. And in particular cybersecurity will have to protect the brains of leaders from being hacked. That might be even more important than protecting conventional assets such as computers, grids and networks.

How would you achieve this? I can’t even think where to start. How about building a helmet to wear at all times that will repel invaders? Hmm, a permanent bad hair day. Or how about I wear permanently something on my wrist that emits a protective force field to achieve the same ends? Sort of like an iWatch on steroids. Maybe I could make one that will make an exception for me to look at what my girlfriend is thinking?

And if we get to this state of mind, what happens to our behavior? As individuals and as a species? Will our behavior start to change under the constant assault of potential hackers, just like we are all learning what emails not to click in case they are phishing devices?

Will we start to develop anti-phishing behaviors from birth, developed epigenetically or even genetically? In three generations time will we need to have a measure of someones AHIQ (anti-hacking IQ)? Will these developments lead to changes in our brain structure as well as behavior over a couple of generations or so since we now know that epigenetic changes can occur very rapidly?

It’s becoming obvious that events on the ground are outpacing our capacity to address them. Cybersecurity will soon be only to a minor extent a matter of making computers secure. The theater of operations is rapidly moving to a new terra incognita, our own brains and particularly to the most valuable, those of our leaders.

What happens to leadership strategy then I wonder?









Stay Informed

When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.

Do personality tests work?
Low EQ = High Business Acumen?

Related Posts


List of all Perth posts