Malcolm Ritter at the AP write this piece on plans to commercialize brain scanning techniques that purport to detect lies. The first commercial uses for the technology, it seems, will be by people who wish to demonstrate that they are telling the truth. Here are some excerpts:
The lab I was visiting recently reported catching lies with 90 percent accuracy. And an entrepreneur in Massachusetts is hoping to commercialize the system in the coming months.
"I'd use it tomorrow in virtually every criminal and civil case on my desk" to check up on the truthfulness of clients, said attorney Robert Shapiro, best known for defending O.J. Simpson against murder charges.
Shapiro serves as an adviser to entrepreneur Steven Laken and has a financial interest in Cephos Corp., which Laken founded to commercialize the brain-scanning work being done at the Medical University of South Carolina.
That's where I had my brain-scan interrogation. But this lab isn't alone. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have also reported impressive accuracy through brain-scanning recently. California entrepreneur Joel T. Huizenga plans to use that work to start offering lie-detecting services in Philadelphia this July.
His outfit, No Lie MRI Inc., will serve government agencies and "anybody that wants to demonstrate that they're telling the truth," he said.
. . .
But Jennifer Vendemia, a University of South Carolina researcher who studies deception and the brain, said she finds Laken's timetable premature. So little research has been done on using fMRI for this purpose that it's too soon to make any judgment about how useful it could be, she said.
Without studies to see how well the technique works in other labs — a standard procedure in the scientific world — its reliability might be an issue, said Dr. Sean Spence of the University of Sheffield in England, who also studies fMRI for detecting deception.
Speaking more generally, ethical and legal experts said they were wary of quickly using fMRI for spotting lies.
"What's really scary is if we start implementing this before we know how accurate it really is," Greely said. "People could be sent to jail, people could be sent to the death penalty, people could lose their jobs.". . .
There's also a philosophical argument in case fMRI works all too well. Greely notes that four Supreme Court justices wrote in 1998 that if polygraphs were reliable enough to use as evidence, they shouldn't be admitted because they would usurp the jury's role of determining the truth. With only four votes, that position doesn't stand as legal precedent, but it's "an interesting straw in the wind" for how fMRI might be received someday, he said.