- Psychic driving1 might also tell us something about the future, not just the past, of psychological therapy. Few present-day psychiatrists ﬁnd themselves preoccupied with issues of communism and brainwashing, but Cameron’s core belief in the inevitable merging of technology and psychiatry has proven remarkably resilient. This is perhaps seen most dramatically in the recent explosion of smartphone applications concerned with mental health, with some 10,000 apps on the market oﬀering everything from mood trackers to mindfulness programmes, ambient noise generators to automated hypnosis. Enthusiastic advocates have been quick to praise these pocket-sized therapies as a timely solution to the budgetary pressures and long waiting lists of overstretched mental health services.
- However, psychic driving introduces a note of caution to these celebrations. While exotic conspiracies of international espionage are unlikely to be uncovered, Cameron’s work reminds us that we ought to question whose interests, beyond benevolent ‘healing’, are at play. Beneath the optimistic rhetoric of this new wave of ‘techno-therapy’ there is plenty to worry about: applications frequently lack expert medical oversight, few are supported by reliable studies gauging their eﬀectiveness or even basic safety, and many have been found to leak or actively sell users’ sensitive health data to third parties. Clearly such issues must be interrogated further, and the history of psychic driving can bolster the necessary scepticism – and dissent – to do so.
For the full text, see Aeon: Saunders - The history of brainwashing is a red flag for techno-therapy.
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