In what might be a page from the script of a sci-fi action-adventure flick, a super-stealthy San Diego military contractor with big funding from U.S. taxpayers has emerged from the shadows at this week's Comic-Con to show off some of its wares.
"Looking Glass is a game developed with Department of Defense and Department of Education funds to address gender discrepancy in engineering by promoting an increased interest in computer programming and robotics for middle school-aged girls," says a July 19 news release from Kearny Mesa's Cubic Corporation
Not mentioned are more controversial mind-bending efforts at Cubic and its newly acquired subsidiary Intific, "part of the Cubic Global Defense business unit."
Austin, Texas-based Intific, whose specialties reportedly include "cyber warfare," was acquired by Cubic in March 2014, according to the San Diego Business Journal. The unit has 80 workers in Texas and Alexandria, Virginia, the account says.
Much of the military's interest in Intific stems from its expertise in using brainwaves to train snipers, and other, more advanced mind-altering processes currently in the works, according to the military trade press.
"Using electro-encephalographic techniques drawn from the medical diagnosis community, the Intific Neuro-EST solution identifies the patterns of brainwaves of expert marksmen as they shoot," DefenseNews reported in December
The hoped-for result, says the account, is altering the thoughts and actions of soldiers.
"Analysis provides a brainwave model that can then be transferred to an individual at a lower level of expertise using auditory and haptic techniques that effectively teach that individual to think differently — just about weapons training, of course: There is as good a prospect of changing the entire thought process of an individual as there was of any medieval alchemist actually finding the Philosopher’s Stone."
Maybe so, but so-called brainwashing, as portrayed in 1962's Manchurian Candidate, along with the 2004 remake by Jonathan Demme, has long engaged both the Pentagon and comic-book fans.
From 1953 to 1964. the state of the mind-control art was represented by MKUltra, the Central Intelligence Agency's top-secret experiment with LSD, hypnotism, electroshock, and other mind-altering techniques.
Since then, more sophisticated government research projects have multiplied in secrecy. Notes Defense News, "The brain process is something becoming better understood and this type of exploitation could become the bellwether of future advances."
Intific vice president Amy Kruse told the publication, "Correlating behavior and thinking patterns to the success of expert marksmen has resulted in proven performance improvement of over 100 percent in trials in some cases."
Chief technology officer for Intific since last September, Kruse “served as a government civilian program manager in the Defense Sciences Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) from 2005 to 2010, where she managed various programs including efforts in Augmented Cognition, Neurotechnology for Intelligence Analysts, Accelerated Learning, and Cognitive Technology Threat Warning Systems among others,” according to Cubic.
Kruse has also been a key player in an electrical brain stimulation experiment run by DARPA, according to a May 31 report by Wired.
"Not for the faint of heart," says the story, the method "involves using electrodes to deliver short bursts of electrical current directly to the brain. One of its potential uses is to increase the excitability of the neurons, making them fire more readily and helping the brain learn new skills more quickly."
Whether any of this works or just becomes fodder for a so-so sci-fi movie at a future Comic-Con, the technology is sure to cost taxpayers a bundle, based on numbers posted online by SBIRSource. The Looking Glass project alone has raked in over $2.5 million in Pentagon dollars.
As is the case with most military contractors, Cubic has been free-spending with its campaign cash for Washington politicos.
So far this election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org, the company has given mostly to House Republicans, with a total of $51,500. Democrats picked up $14,200, with La Jolla congressman Scott Peters getting $5000 and Susan Davis, his Democratic colleague from San Diego’s Kensington neighborhood, taking $3000. GOP House member Duncan Hunter got $5000.