Future Sentences Could Last 1K Years —in Prisoners' Minds

Philosophers discuss mind-warping punishments

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 15, 2014 5:24 PM CDT

(Newser) – We could someday see prison sentences radically altered—in the prisoner's own mind, the Telegraph reports. An Oxford philosophers are considering how future technology could, for instance, make a jail sentence feel as though it lasted 1,000 years, they tell Aeon magazine. After all, there are already "a number of psychoactive drugs that distort people’s sense of time," and existing interrogation scenarios tinker with lighting to prevent subjects from knowing the time, says Rebecca Roache.

In a blog post, Roache advances an even more mind-bending idea: Some point to a future in which brain scans allow us to upload the human brain onto a computer (there's even a Wikipedia page about it). If that happens, we could perhaps "speed up" a prisoner's mind. "Uploading the mind of a convicted criminal and running it a million times faster than normal would enable the uploaded criminal to serve a 1,000 year sentence in eight-and-a-half hours," Roache writes. That would, she notes, "be much cheaper for the taxpayer." But, she points out, "the goal isn’t simply to imagine a bunch of futuristic punishments—the goal is to look at today’s punishments through the lens of the future."

Drugs could be developed to make prisoners believe time is passing slower.
Drugs could be developed to make prisoners believe time is passing slower.   (Shutterstock)
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