The Prison of the Future or Dark Sci-FI? The vision of Cognify

Jun 27, 2024 | News

The concept of Cognify, a visionary rehabilitation facility proposed by Yemeni molecular biologist and science communicator Hashem Al-Ghaili, presents a revolutionary yet controversial approach to criminal rehabilitation. By embedding artificial memories into individuals to permanently alter their behavior, Cognify seeks to replace traditional prisons with a more effective system. However, this innovative idea raises numerous ethical questions and concerns.


The concept of Cognify

Cognify is a conceptual prison system designed to rehabilitate inmates using advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), neurofeedback, virtual reality (VR) therapy, biometric monitoring, and memory implantation. AI personalizes rehabilitation programs based on individual needs, while neurofeedback trains inmates to control their brain functions to manage emotions and reduce criminal tendencies. VR therapy provides immersive environments for inmates to confront and work through issues, and continuous biometric monitoring ensures their physical and mental well-being. Additionally, memory implantation uses neurotechnology to replace harmful or traumatic memories with positive ones, promoting pro-social behavior. This integrated approach claims to address the psychological, educational, and social needs of inmates, thereby facilitating their reintegration into society and reducing the likelihood of reoffending.


Ethical Implications and Concerns

Cognify’s bold approach to rehabilitation is not without significant ethical dilemmas. The primary concern lies in the alteration of personal identity and the potential for misuse of such technology. Embedding artificial memories could fundamentally change an individual’s sense of self, leading to questions about the morality of such interventions. Additionally, the possibility of this technology being used to conform individuals’ memories and psyches to societal standards poses a serious ethical threat. The discourse surrounding Cognify is dominated by these concerns, emphasizing the need for careful consideration and ethical guidelines.


Feasibility and Inspiration

Despite these ethical challenges, Al-Ghaili remains optimistic about Cognify’s feasibility. He asserts, “The science behind it already exists, but the ethical boundaries stand in the way of making it a reality“. Cognify was inspired by the limitations of the current criminal justice system and the pivotal role of vivid memories in shaping behavior. Traditional prisons often fail to rehabilitate effectively, leading to high recidivism rates. Al-Ghaili believes that Cognify can address these issues by leveraging advanced technology to create a more effective rehabilitation system.



Mechanism of Artificial Memory Implantation

The process of creating artificial memories involves using AI-generated content to convert visual information into codes, which are then delivered directly to the brain and stored in DNA and RNA—molecules linked to memory formation. Al-Ghaili notes that similar experiments have been successful in animals, fueling his confidence in human application. Additionally, a low-pulse laser can be used to trigger different memories based on the pulse applied, with each memory stored uniquely in the brain. This technology holds the potential to fundamentally change how rehabilitation is approached.


Customized Rehabilitation Approach

Cognify’s approach to rehabilitation is highly individualized. The intensity and type of artificial memories would be tailored to the crime committed, aiming to provoke responses such as empathy, remorse, or understanding. However, the application of this technology must consider complex psychological factors. For instance, psychopaths, who are significantly more likely to engage in violent behavior, may require additional therapeutic interventions combined with artificial memory implantation to achieve the desired outcomes.


The Four-Step Rehabilitation Process

Al-Ghaili outlines a four-step process for Cognify’s rehabilitation. First, the consent of the prisoner is obtained. Second, a brain scan identifies the regions to be targeted by Cognify. The third step involves the memory implantation itself, a process that lasts only a few minutes and varies according to the nature of the crime. The final step includes monitoring the prisoners to observe changes in their behavior. Following these steps, prisoners could potentially be released within a few days.


Balancing Benefits and Ethical Challenges

While Cognify presents a revolutionary approach to rehabilitation, balancing its benefits with the ethical challenges it poses is crucial. The potential for a skewed sense of self due to artificial memories and the risk of misuse to alter individuals’ memories and psyches to conform to societal standards are significant concerns. These challenges make the application of such a concept difficult. Despite skepticism, Al-Ghaili remains committed to his vision of transforming the industry through advanced technology, asserting, “Society won’t be able to stop it.

When asked about the timeline for Cognify’s realization, Al-Ghaili admits it is too soon to provide an accurate estimate. However, successful trials on animal models and advancements in AI text-to-video models indicate a promising future for this field. Al-Ghaili concludes, “If we could overcome the ethical restrictions that limit testing such technology, we could have it ready in less than a decade from now.”


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