Re: Truth machines

Anders Sandberg (
17 Dec 1998 20:47:21 +0100

"den Otter" <> writes:

> > From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky <>
> > JKC has noted that evolution has put a tremendous amount of effort into
> > detecting and concealing lies, so a perfect truth machine is unlikely.
> >
> > I say exactly the opposite: Evolution has put so much effort into lies
> > that there's probably a module of the brain devoted to lying (anyone
> > know if someone's looked for it?), and thus it might be very easy to
> > detect activity with an fMRI.
> You could start with [scanning] notorious liars, as their "module",
> if it exists, should be bigger or otherwise more noticeable than that
> of "normal" people.

Possible. But I would be careful about this, since notorious liars could well have some kind of lesion to this system - a lot of positive symptoms in neuropsychological diseases are actually due to disinhibition.

If I was looking for a "lie center" I would especially look in the orbitofrontal corext, which seems to have strong ties to social cognition and inhibiting or modulating social behavior. But lying is complex, and I think it is more likely that if evolution has favored the development of a lie system it would be widely distributed. The old view of modular centers is gradually dissolving into global cell assemblies, with partial functions (such as motor interaction or vocal input) gathered together into the brain areas we can observe.

> Perhaps it could be manipulated too, so that the
> subject becomes (virtually) incapable of lying. This is certainly some-
> thing worth further investigation.

Perhaps. Maybe worth looking at impulse control disorders like kleptomania and Tourette's syndrome. Then of course, being unable of lying would likely be a social handicap and limit the range of human behavior. Ethics alert.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
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