June 28, 2006
Brain Scan Lie Detectors Come To Market

Higher accuracy lie detection technology is coming to market.

Two companies plan to market the first lie-detecting devices that use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and say the new tests can spot liars with 90% accuracy.

No Lie MRI plans to begin offering brain-based lie-detector tests in Philadelphia in late July or August, says Joel Huizenga, founder of the San Diego-based start-up. Cephos Corp. of Pepperell, Mass., will offer a similar service later this year using MRI machines at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, says its president, Steven Laken.

Both rely in part on recent research funded by the federal government aimed at producing a foolproof method of detecting deception.

Lie detection will become a huge market. It will change personal relationships, marriages, the criminal justice system (I love tools that can exonerate the innocent), the hunt for terrorists, and raise honesty in business dealings.

Want to settle an argument where one party does not trust the other's claims? Even better, how about those arguments where both sides say the other is lying? The solution (assuming you don't mind the 90% accuracy rate) is quite affordable.

No Lie MRI plans to charge $30 a minute to use its device. Cephos has not yet set a price.

Have any disagreements with suspected liars that would be worth at least $30 to verify truth or dishonesty?

Be on the look-out for VeraCenters.

No Lie MRI will debut its services this July in Philadelphia, where it will demonstrate the technology to be used in a planned network of facilities the company is calling VeraCenters. Each facility will house a scanner connected to a central computer in California. As the client responds to questions using a handheld device, the imaging data will be fed to the computer, which will classify each answer as truthful or deceptive using software developed by Langleben's team.

Temple University radiologist Scott Faro sees lie detectors as great money savers.

"People say fMRI is expensive," Faro continues, "but what's the cost of a six-month jury trial? And what's the cost to America for missing a terrorist? If this is a more accurate test, I don't see any moral issues at all. People who can afford it and believe they are telling the truth are going to love this test."

The more parties to a disagreement the less the problem of the only 90% success rate. Ask several employees in a company or suspected members of a terrorist ring some hard questions. See where they all line up in terms of their answers and the fMRI machine's assessements.

The US federal government prevents private companies from using the cost savings of lie detection. This'll become an incentive to move work offshore when business needs place a very high value on honesty and trustworthiness.

No Lie MRI's plans to market its services to corporations will likely run afoul of the 1988 Employee Polygraph Protection Act, which bars the use of lie-detection tests by most private companies for personnel screening. Government employers, however, are exempt from this law, which leaves a huge potential market for fMRI in local, state, and federal agencies, as well as in the military.

I wonder if lie detection will be allowed in divorce cases? "Have you disclosed all your sources of income and all assets?" Or how about "Have you ever done illegal drugs while you had custody of the kids?"

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 June 28 04:25 PM  Brain Surveillance

rsilvetz said at June 28, 2006 7:55 PM:

Oh, imagine making it a requirement of public office, of mandatory in debates, mandatory not only of witnesses but of judges...

Imagine having the President wear The Helmet while addressing the nation with the running truth score underneath...

Imagine using this on salesmen...

And then also think of some of the beautiful foul-ups this thing could cause:

Imagine a true self-defense case with a twist?

Lawyer: Did you kill Franklin?

Witness: Yes

Truth Machine: 98% truthful

Lawyers: Was it self-defense?

Witness: Yes

Truth Machine: 99% truthful

On cross now to go after 2nd degree murder...

Lawyer2: Did you hate Franklin?

Withness: Yes

Truth Machine: 100% truthful

Lawyer2: So you took advantage of the situation to rid yourself of him?

Witness: Yes

Truth Machine: 95% truthful

... Now, do you convict or not?

Wolf-Dog said at June 28, 2006 9:56 PM:

In the future, mind reading machines will certainly be perfected. But at the same time, if authoritarian regimes gain control of the world in the future, then it will be virtually impossible to overthrow them, since nobody will be able to organize a revolt without getting detected. For this reason, I believe that the truth machine will become a very dangerous instrument in the future. When this machine becomes 100 % reliable and very cheap, Osama Bin Laden will be able to ascertain who is a sufficiently adamant believer in his doctrine, and who might be a double agent working for the CIA. Thus the truth machine can also make the terrorist cells impenetrable, since they will be able to select only those who are exactly like them.

crush41 said at June 28, 2006 10:06 PM:

NPR's Talk of the Nation had an interesting segment on the new MRI lie detector technology. From what I gathered, like traditional detectors that measure physiological variables, the new detectors are still essentially sincerity detectors. Unfortunately, there's a premium in the ability to lie to oneself.

crush41 said at June 28, 2006 10:10 PM:

Sorry. Here's what I meant to link.

Bob Badour said at June 29, 2006 6:17 PM:

My concern, like crush41's, is that the distribution of errors is likely not random or uniform. In any case, a 10% failure rate is way too high.

Consider all of the areas where Randall has suggested a use for this technology. One might expect to be measured 100 or 1000 times. Who would want to be incorrectly branded a liar and somehow punished 10 or 100 times when they were telling the truth?

Randall Parker said at June 29, 2006 6:58 PM:

Once these machines move into wider scale use we'll see whether some people are especially skilled at beating them. But suppose some people are good at beating fMRI lie detectors. Perhaps some measurable characteristic can identify them. Then the machine will become more reliable against those who do not share that characteristic.

Doug said at June 29, 2006 9:03 PM:

"Do you have reservations about democracy?"
"Do you think there is scientific evidence that different races have different average intelligence?"
"Are you a 'Straussian'?"
"Did you vote for the Party's candidates?"
"Do you engage in homosexual sex?"
"Do you believe there is any god but Allah?"
"Do you acknowledge that Mohammed is God's final Prophet?"
"Have you told us everything you know about Randall Parker?"

Oh, we're gonna have fun with this technology.

Bob Badour said at June 30, 2006 3:39 PM:


Would you want to be incorrectly branded a liar and somehow punished 10 or 100 times when you are telling the truth? Consider that a single false-positive might incorrectly brand an innocent person as a sex offender or have other similar socially devastating effects.

Patrick said at June 30, 2006 5:46 PM:

Ignoring the possibilities of dictatorships and terrorists, won't this ability tend to make ANY authority more absolute? How much of the freedom we enjoy day to day is merely the result that it is too hard to enforce all those stupid laws that are sitting on the statute books?

It's still against the law to smoke dope, drive 1 km/h above the speed limit, drop some detergent into the drain, wash your car without recycling the water, swap some labour for a few cases of beer without reporting it to the tax department... (depending on your location) but we can do all these things mostly because the gov. can't enforce these laws. Now they can.

Tom said at July 1, 2006 7:00 AM:

This thing is not going to be a stand-alone tool for determining the truth and in combination with everything else, should get us closer to the truth.

A reader said at July 2, 2006 1:34 PM:

Liars know that if you down a tranquilizer first before a polygraph. ?

Jim Stark said at July 2, 2006 5:22 PM:

Great to see all this recent interest in near-perfect lie detection, and my hearty thanks to those who would bring this technology to market. I spent five years writing a two-book novel called "The LieDeck Revolution," about what would happen to the world and to the individual if an infallible lie detector were to appear on the market as an affordable consumer product, and there is no end to the things it would radically change (hence "revolution" in the title). After such a long involvement with this theme, my bottom line is that I'm for it, no matter what difficulties it may cause or stir up. The aspect that seems to escape our attention it what it would do to our habit of lying to ourselves. In any event, the technology is on its way, and we will soon know if it's a boon or a horrid danger. The first volume of my novel is available as an e-book at www.literaryroad.com and the second volume will be up there soon. For those interested in this issue, I encourage you to read both books. Feedback welcome. jimstarkwriter@yahoo.com

Bob Badour said at July 2, 2006 7:24 PM:


A 10% failure rate hardly qualifies as 'near-perfect'. Far from it.

Jim Stark said at July 3, 2006 6:05 AM:

Bob, if you're good enough with a rifle to hit a target 9 times out of 10 and you've simply got to hit the target, taker 25 shots, and you'll hit it for sure, likely 22 or 23 times. With lie detector ratings, when they say it's 90% accurate, they mean there is a 10% chance of a false negative or false positive ON ANY GIVEN QUESTION. There is always the aspect of how technology is applied, and the net effect is that the new technology is "near-perfect" in the hands of a skilled interviewer ... indeed, it is "virtually" infallible.

Bob Badour said at July 6, 2006 6:44 AM:

Jim, you are assuming the error has no systemic bias and that the act of lying will far outweigh any other situational influences. Further, you are assuming the 2 or 3 misses cause no collateral damage.

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