Everything you know could be wrong ­ little more than re-constructed memories planted by government mind-control programmes. David Guyatt traces the history of thought control experiments and the technology that might shape a future psycho-civilised society

The Pentagon's crew-cut communication commandos say that less-than-lethal (LTL) weapons won't kill you, but what they don't tell you is that their new-age, high-tech, armoury has been secretly honed to mind-boggling efficacy and it is your mind that's been scheduled for boggling.

Your future shot of non-lethal Novocain might be an electromagnetic field that cocoons your every thought and inserts an inaudible 'command' message directly into your unconscious. The whole caboodle has been lovingly designed to re-programme the way you think ­ and even what you think. Alternatively, at the flip of a switch you might be turned off altogether.

Thought can be controlled ­ remotely. There's no need to attach wires or electrodes. Nowadays, the spooks of Langley, Fort George Meade and elsewhere, can hack straight into your brain. This might sound like the rabid fantasising of an X-Files fruitcake, but the technology is out there and so is the will to use it.

In 1996, the US Air Force Scientific Advisory Board published a 14-volume study of future developments in weapons called New World Vistas. Tucked away on page 89 of an ancillary 15th volume are some hair-raising insights into the future 'coupling' of man and machine in a section dealing with 'Biological Process Control'. The author refers to an 'explosion' of knowledge in the field of neuroscience, adding, ominously: "One can envision the development of electromagnetic energy sources, the output of which can be pulsed, shaped, and focused, that can couple with the human body in a fashion that will allow one to prevent voluntary muscular movements, control emotions (and thus actions), produce sleep, transmit suggestions, interfere with both short-term and long-term memory, produce an experience set, and delete an experience set."1 Translating the words 'experience set' from military jargon into plain English, this means, simply, that they envisage the ability to erase your life's memories and substitute a new, fictitious set.

There is some debate whether these mind-weapons are not already in 'low profile' service. By projecting such developments into the future, the authors of New Vistas might be camouflaging present day capabilities. A similar futuristic scenario with many references to mind manipulation is described in The Revolution in Military Affairs and Conflict Short of War(US Army War College, 1994). Authors Steven Metz and James Kievit declare: "Behaviour modification is a key component of peace enforcement" and "The advantage of [using] directed energy systems is deniability." Savvy individuals, the authors ask: "Against whom is such deniability aimed?" The direct answer is "the American people". So much for 'open government'.

Set in the year 2010, Metz and Kievit write of "perception moulding" and "advanced psycho-technologies" to avoid irksome public protest, but that is just the beginning. The major obstacle, they believe, is that "traditional American ethics [are] a major hindrance," and thus, sadly "old-fashioned notions of personal privacy and national sovereignty [are to be] changed."

Individuals unwilling to go along with the revolutionary changes are "identified using comprehensive inter-agency integrated databases." They will then be "catergorized" and "sophisticated computerized personality simulations" will be used "to develop, tailor and focus psychological campaigns for [ie. against] each."

Other techniques to be used in association with these new mind weapons, including 'morphing' ­ a present-day ability that controls the distortion of TV images.8 So, if you are lucky enough not to have your brains electronically scrambled ­ or erased ­ the electronic news media will be manipulated especially for you, presenting convincing near-real-life visual images through your combined TV set-cum-internet interface.

While these new-age Da Vinci's continue to create their speckled visions of our future, we should ask some hard question now; specifically: "Is this technology just a futuristic dream or is it here today?"