# Securing information with cognitive disappearance

After being told about hemianopsia (visual neglect) in an answer to another question, I started wondering if I could apply the same idea to artificial applications, such as securing information or hiding things.

Information has always been something we as humans have tried to control. Governments and companies are in an arms race with other governments and companies and third parties to develop better defenses. Is there some manner of artificial construct, or set of constructs, that would enable an entity to control what objects or information is physically seen by an arbitrary individual?

For example, Franklin has been cleared by the government to enter the Blue Room. He can enter the building with the Blue Room, go to the hall with the Blue Room, stand in the hall with the door to the Blue Room, use his id to unlock the door, and enter the Blue Room without any problem. The spy behind him, Clemont, who isn't cleared to enter the Blue Room, can follow Franklin into the building and to the hall, but he's too far behind Franklin to see where he went and doesn't see the door to the Blue Room.

For another example, Franklin is cleared by a company to watch streaming data on a certain computer screen. When he looks at the screen, from anywhere the screen is visible, he can see all the data streaming at that time. Clemont, however, who isn't cleared for this either, could press his face against the screen and see only his reflection on what appears to be a disabled device.

My first idea to support this would be a device that indiscriminately applies its effect out to a certain distance and an implant that neutralizes it. Thus, no one notices anything out of place, at least until an uncleared person watches a cleared person walk through a wall or simply vanish.

• It's unclear how well a visual neglect inducer would work against hardened recording devices, though. – Serban Tanasa Mar 1 '15 at 16:47
• The entire concept is explored in more detail in They Live (1988), where the plucky (human) freedom fighters get hold of special sunglasses enabling them to see what the (alien-controlled) world is really like. – FumbleFingers Mar 1 '15 at 17:22

Running with your second example with the implant, I could see this being done with pretty basic crypo. Instead of a blank screen, the screen would need to appear to have something on it, just nothing human readable. Static would work, or something that looks like the falling numbers Matrix screen. As long as it continually changes without appearing meaningful. Franklin's implant would have the key to creating meaning from the visual noise, and could perhaps directly affect his perception, replacing the static with the decoded information.

The unfindable door is trickier. But we could go low-tech, and just make a door that doesn't look like a door. It would just blend in with the wall. Then, we throw in some high tech sensor to have the door open when Franklin is in front of it. If Franklin still has an implant, the implant could impose an image of a door on the wall at that spot, so that as far as Franklin can tell, it's an ordinary looking door with a motion-sensor opener.

• Did you join the SE just to answer this? Welcome to Worldbuilding! Although, I think you may have confused Franklin and Clemont. Otherwise, this is certainly a simple solution to the problem. – Frostfyre Mar 1 '15 at 3:05
• Thank you! I fixed the name mix-up. And I'm on other SE sites, mostly Stack Overflow, just happened to be snooping around here and wanted to chime in on an interesting question with no answer yet. – Bryon Mar 4 '15 at 1:39
• Hang around. There's lots of interesting questions out here. – Frostfyre Mar 4 '15 at 1:42

Another answer similar to the one above but still distinct: polarized light. If the cleared Franklin is given a set of glasses carefully polarized to the appropriate spectrum of light (or, if you want to get trickier, it's synchronized to the changing polarization of the source of secret data) his eyes will perceive the pure data, while clever Clemont will see a mass of static from the other non polarized sources. If the door has no obvious features but can reflect a polarized light source differently than other walls, then the door would stand out to someone with the right glasses, while everyone else would see indistinguishable walls.

• What happens when a cleared individual needs a specific prescription for some form of ocular degeneration combined with extreme near-sightedness? Altering the glasses enough to see the cleared areas might distort everything to the point of being nonfunctional. – Frostfyre Mar 1 '15 at 17:53
• The polarization is an external filter fitted on top of whatever prescription is needed. It's not a problem. It won't effect perception otherwise. – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 1 '15 at 17:57

The simplest way would be to have implants in everyone's head. Those would interfere with the connections within the brain and anything that you weren't cleared to know about would be blocked from recognition.

So your eyes would see the door, your brain would register it...however the brain would be unable to accept or grasp or process it as anything important. The fact that the person you are following went through the door would just not make it from the visual and memory area to the decision making parts of the brain.

Depending on how this modifies connections and long term memory you might have the interesting scenario where someone's chip malfunctions and suddenly they not only start seeing things they should not - but they remember all the things they saw in the past!

• Putting implants in everyone's head seems like 1) an impossible prospect and 2) an extreme invasion of privacy. How do you ensure the French, Russian, Syrian, and North Korean nationals get the implant? – Frostfyre Mar 1 '15 at 17:49

I would go the opposite path TimB did, and make the device external, and on-by-default, off-by-design. Even so, it would not stop a determined spy with electronic means of surveillance.

The visual neglect inducer detects all incoming foot traffic, maps the location of the passers-by brains, adjusts the network of electromagnetic field generators (hidden in the walls and ceiling) to 'blind' the awareness of all passers-by in regards to the existence of the door. It accomplishes this by messing with the functioning of the visual processing neural centers that deal with information integration in preparation for conscious awareness downstream, in a way similar to that described in my previous answer.

With hardened IFF transponders in authorized personnel, you can selectively exclude friendlies from the effect, and thus you can get your Platform $9 \frac{3}{4}$ effect. The computer terminal you mention would not even be visible to the interloper.

However, things quickly become more complicated when you introduce nonbiological surveillance. While a normal video recorder can be scrambled into uselessness by a field, Clemont is KGB-trained, and has access to decent, hardened hardware, or even mechanical devices such as old-fashioned cameras that are not vulnerable to scrambling.

Additionally, the modulated fields that induce the visual neglet are themselves susceptible to detection. So if you don't know where in the building the secret lab is located, all you have to do is walk around taking pictures every few steps with a mechanical micro-camera while a field detector scans for anomalies. Back at the base, you can compare the micro-camera results with your recollections and cross-reference with any anomalous field measurements.

From Clemont's perspective, the problem still remains that even with knowing where the door is located, your brain refuses to see it. Perhaps placing Clemont (or just Clemont's head) in a faraday cage, such as a modded biker helmet, or even a metal-lined baseball cap, might degrade the visual neglect inducer's effectiveness sufficiently that he would be able to notice the door. Presumably, the breach by an IFF-nonfriendly would still trigger all sorts of alarms, so it's unclear that the increased security of building a visual neglect inducer is worth the hassle, but it's rather cool none the less.

• I think that if Clemont was decapitated he would no longer be a potential threat. :) – Frostfyre Mar 1 '15 at 17:46
• Still, I would think that introducing a closed metallic loop into a magnetic field would induce a magnetic field in the loop, but maybe my understanding of magnetism is a bit off in this. – Frostfyre Mar 1 '15 at 17:47