April 2, 2008

Voices In Your Head Explained

If you're on a busy street corner or standing in line at Wal-Mart and you start hearing voices in your head that tell you to do things you wouldn't otherwise do -- you may not be schizophrenic. You may be the subject of hypersonic sound advertising. This technology broadcasts sound waves out of an amplifier the same way a laser broadcasts light waves out of its generator -- on a very tight focus. And the sound waves literally resonate out of your own skull. So if you think you're hearing voices in your own head, it's because you are. And only you can hear what's being broadcast.

Naturally, the technology is being developed for consumer advertising. One of the manufacturers insists there are other uses, but advertising seems like the obvious use. There are already lots of people out there who insist not only that "Jesus talks to me," but that I am supposed to believe in the literal truth of that statement -- that a two-millennia dead rabbi was resurrected and assumed bodily into heaven and that this rabbi now speaks from the astral plane directly into the skull of a hairdresser from Ocoee, Tennessee. Only now she'll be telling me not only that Jesus spoke to her, but that she heard Him say which brand of maxi-pads a real Christian woman would use.

The potential for using this technology for other and more sinister objectives, particularly on the gullible or the superstitious, is fantastically obvious. God might suggest to people how to vote as they approach the voting booth, again speaking directly into their skulls. He might tell soldiers to lay down their arms on the battlefield. He might urge you to actually buy the new Third Eye Blind CD.

On the other hand, imagine the immense amounts of fun that could be had using this technology for fraternity pranks. What could possibly go wrong?

If you're hearing voices in your head, you've got problems. Particularly if you are the sort of person who thinks there really might be supernatural beings that could communicate with you in this way, you might wonder if you're suffering from a mental illness, really being visited by a demon or an angel, or if there is something going on out there in your environment that you weren't aware of before. Well now, you can add another possibility to that list -- you're the target of a commercial and the only way to make the voices stop will be to buy more canned beef stew.

I don't know that I'm on board with this. I dislike that the technology uses my own skull as the medium for translating the message into one I can understand. Show me a billboard, play a commercial on the radio, okay, I'll deal. But don't literally invade my skull with your advertising.

UPDATE: To the lawyers, law students, and paralegals out there -- does the use of this device constitute the tort of battery?

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