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A secret organization operating out of an undisclosed location for an undisclosed parent organizations have invented a "convince-me" ray gun (CMRG) that works by an unknown mechanism. After an idea is loaded in the ray gun, the gun is fired at a person or group of people resulting in 75% acceptance of the idea. The remaining 25% are immune though it unknown if this is a generic ability or a psychologically based (ie. too damn stubborn to even consider another idea.)

Think of it as directional and highly effective advertising.

  • Blocked by visible objects.
  • The ray gun only operates in the visible spectrum.
  • The gun is human mounted, weighing no more than 20 lbs (weight includes battery pack). Battery pack will last for 5 hours of continuous operation.
  • Ray gun obeys the inverse-square law though someone staring at the gun even at a maximal distance will still be convinced of the encoded idea.
  • Victim must see the ray gun.
  • It takes several seconds to several hours depending on the complexity of the idea for it to become lodged in the victim's brain.
  • Only the portion of the idea that a victim sees will be implanted in their mind. So if an idea takes 30 seconds to transmit, a victim may only see the first 10 seconds by closing their eyes or looking away.
  • Ideas that counteract basic life-support functions won't work. No one is going to commit suicide because some jerk beamed out "Kill yourself."
  • The victim isn't immediately aware that an idea is being broadcast as processing of the idea happens at a level below conscious awareness. All they will aware of is a bright flash or two. They may be aware of a new idea shortly after the idea broadcast completes.

Clearly a weapon such as this is incredibly powerful and huge interest to any organization that has a vested interest in the general public thinking a certain way. In light of what this ray gun can do, how would an angry citizen defend against it?

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    $\begingroup$ Worth researching is the concept of "qualia." It points to the challenges one may assume when trying to convey a pure idea because we are not confident everyone experiences things the same way (or thinks the same way). The method you use to overcome this may say a great deal about its weaknesses. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Oct 5 '15 at 15:26
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    $\begingroup$ This secret organization seems to have acquired a certain set of plans from Deep Thought. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Oct 5 '15 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ Another fun question to explore is the edge of your last bullet: "Ideas that counteract basic life-support functions won't work." Since there are some ideas which can be beamed, and some which cannot, it leads to an interesting study of what the transition between the two regions looks like. It may be possible to adapt one's mind such that that grey region is applicable to more and more ideas, increasing immunity, but it'd be up to you to help us explore what would happen in this strange region. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Oct 5 '15 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ This question exactly replicates the main plot of Fredric Brown's "Daymare ", in which a character invents (or rather re-invents) a hypnotism device that sits atop the head. The protagonist defeats it by wearing a set of welding goggles with wiper-blades creating a stroboscopic effect $\endgroup$ – Richard Oct 5 '15 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ A secret organisation has discovered televised news? $\endgroup$ – Erik Oct 6 '15 at 4:55

17 Answers 17

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Vaccinate Them

Get a Convince-Me Ray Gun (CMRG). Hit everyone with the idea, "Disregard any future ideas given to you by CMRGs."

Anyone immune is still immune, anyone not is now vaccinated.

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    $\begingroup$ I load my CMRG with the idea that all past commands given by CMRG's are invalid, you load yours with all future ideas are invalid. Cue hilarity. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 5 '15 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs: Logically your command to consider past ones invalid would be ignored. ;) Of course, a truly unscrupulous person would load the command, "Disregard any future ideas given to you by CMRGs that aren't wielded by me." $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Oct 5 '15 at 15:47
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    $\begingroup$ Depends on how the gun works. If it has to get into your head before you recognise it as a CMRG based idea then by the time you work out you should be ignoring it you'll also be under the impression that you should be ignoring the inoculation! Cue some very confused people, cue hilarity! :D $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 5 '15 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ Load ignore this command, what will happen? $\endgroup$ – tox123 Oct 5 '15 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ @PyRulez ignoring an idea is not the same as doing the opposite. $\endgroup$ – Hugo Zink Oct 6 '15 at 11:10
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Anti-"Convince Me"-Shades

The mechanism for your ray gun seems a bit magical, the details of how it works would greatly affect the answer to your question. If you just need to block the visible light there are a couple of types of shades you could wear.

  • Tunnel vision shades that narrow your perspective and allow you to only look at what is strictly necessary. This isn't fool proof, the ray gun could be put underneath a transparent floor. Would be fairly cheap to make; you could stick two toilet rolls together!

  • Computerized, filter shades. With a camera attached to the front, the feed is fed through software which can filter out the rays. This is then projected into your eyes. This is a lot more effective but there would be an arms race between the ray gun software and the anti-raygun software just like you see with viruses and anti-virus protection.

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    $\begingroup$ You beat me to a similar answer. Based on the question, though, I'd say any pair of shades would do it, as the gun is "blocked by visible objects." $\endgroup$ – Josh Oct 5 '15 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ Obviously wouldn't work. The first step after the Ray Gun's invention would be to use it on everyone to convince them that they would never want to circumvent the Ray Gun, and that roughly 25% percent of the population had an unnatural fear of the Ray Gun and should be ignored. $\endgroup$ – JPhi1618 Oct 5 '15 at 20:20
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    $\begingroup$ A practical idea about how to build one of these: liquid crystals are already used just about everywhere for their magical properties of being easily computer-controlled to block light or allow it through in quite fine-grained areas. As for the arms race: perhaps just blocking a random x% of the visible world at every "frame" would be enough to scramble the signal to irrelevance. Use a cryptographically strong pseudo-random number generator to be sure the gun wielder can't reverse engineer what frames they'll be blocked on. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Wagner Oct 6 '15 at 2:27
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    $\begingroup$ Finally a use for Douglas Adams' "peril sensitive sunglasses"! $\endgroup$ – pjc50 Oct 6 '15 at 9:22
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    $\begingroup$ We could call them ... Ray-Ban. $\endgroup$ – Stig Hemmer Oct 7 '15 at 7:30
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Potentially: Induced colour blindness or partial blindness.

This can be a short or long term solution, but it's based on the assumption that the visible wavelengths used to convince someone of an idea are all important and required in their original proportions (a simple version of this is sunglasses, but that's covered already by Varrick), and that the entirety of the message must be seen (a simple version of this is the joke plastic sunglasses you can get at the beach, but who wants to wear those 24/7?)

Drugs, tailored diseases or simply flooding the eye with the right colour of light can cause colour blindness, either temporarily by depleting the photoreceptors of the chemicals they need to activate, or permanently by damaging the cones of the eye beyond what's needed for normal operation. At this point a person loses quite a lot of their ability to identify certain wavelengths, which could potentially change the device's operating mechanics.

More directly: Retinal damage can cause blind spots, bits of the vision that are missing. This can manifest as a floating black dot in the visual field, or a strange 'warping' of the vision as the brain adjusts (this gets weird if you're reading and words disappear as you scan the page). Either of these effects should be sufficient to disrupt a visually based idea implanter, unless it's got multiple redundant encoding of the idea to avoid errors in the message.

Uncorrected long/short sightedness could also have a similar effect as the message would be blurred, with parts of the ray hitting the wrong bits of the eye to have the desired effect. In this case: wearing the wrong prescription of contact lens would be a sufficient defence.

The problem with all of these is that you might get an effect that was unexpected by either party. If the ray convinces normal people to buy a certain brand of car, but convinces people with cataracts that they should really invest in chickens, then neither of these ideas is the one for you...

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    $\begingroup$ LOL XD. This is a true gem. thanks for it: "If the ray convinces normal people to buy a certain brand of car, but convinces people with cataracts that they should really invest in chickens" $\endgroup$ – GameDeveloper Oct 6 '15 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ People with Aphakia can see ultraviolet light. This could distort their vision of "normal" colors. People with cataracts see all colors with a brownish tint. $\endgroup$ – Enric Naval Oct 7 '15 at 9:15
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    $\begingroup$ And chickens are often brown... See?!?!?? IT BEGINS. ;D $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 7 '15 at 9:18
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LCD shutters (as suggested before) would chop up the idea into useless fragments.

A low budget (battery free, passive, paradoxon free) variant could be to go to your local 3D cinema and grab a pair of glasses with polarization filters. Polarization glasses use different filters on each eye thus each eye would only see a differently polarized version of the original idea. The whole idea would be transmitted but being out of phase it cannot not be implanted.

In fact i would go as far and say that a user of polarization filters would be aware of the idea fired upon him and would reaquire the ability to chose whether to be convinced or not.

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How difficult is it to detect a CMRG image?

Today's technology gives us the ability to create a set of goggles with two high-res cameras and two two-inch monitors, allowing you to see fairly normally with a complete optical disconnect.

If the logic to detect a CMRG image and censor it is simple enough to run in real-time on a smartphone, you attach that to the goggles and you're safe.

Limitations include:

Do these goggles become as laughable as tin-foil hats, limiting their use in polite society?

Is there a noticable lag in the image transfer? If your screens lag a half-second behind reality, people are going to get motion sickness and be more tempted to take the goggles off to see what's really going on.

Can the logic in the CMRG detector be trusted? First, you have to trust the software vendor (and possibly the hardware vendor). Second, if you're actually running the logic on a networked device like your actual smartphone, you are open to crackers. Either way, your very eyes can be hijacked. the obvious payload would be CMRGs. Vendors would use it as advertisement, criminal crackers as bodyjacking ("hotwire that car and bring it to me") or even the newest date-rape drug, political and/or terrorist crackers as propaganda ("anarchy RULES!")

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  • $\begingroup$ Re lag: The right hardware is supposedly good enough to avoid motion sickness. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Oct 5 '15 at 22:34
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As we know from real-life "preppers", one of the most highly focused points of personal defense adopted by a highly (excessively?) concerned citizen is his/her home, a.k.a. his/her fortress.

  1. Build a maze of mirrors - especially fun if a ray reflected through a mirror instead implants the opposite idea of what the wielder intended! This could either be an overt maze of mirrors, or just a few covertly positioned mirrors in one's house.

  2. Or maybe just a fog machine, but that's not as much fun... on the other hand, it is a more portable tactic (think smoke grenades) and thus could be used as a tool in a show of force - a good offence is the best defense

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    $\begingroup$ And carry it with you everywhere you go? How would you actually use this? (Walking around with a permanent cloud of fog might be worth exploring, if you could edit in more details.) $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Oct 6 '15 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ Maze mirror O_O I love it +1 for the great idea :). (sei ita XD)? $\endgroup$ – GameDeveloper Oct 6 '15 at 19:44
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Awareness and Meta Programming.

One school of self mind control is to evaluate your own thoughts. If they seem negative or anti productive most people have the ability recognize this and change their thought patterns by thinking happy thoughts or at least remove themselves from the negative environment.

This ability is also used to resist basic impulse urges. (Oh that candy sounds good, naw it's not healthy, I'd better not eat it).

The method is enhanced with breathing exercises and sometimes physical actions such as yoga, tai-chi, or tapping. One trick is to concentrate on your breath, or a mantra to distract your mind from the maligned thought processes.

When approached by a sales person we can assume they will say anything necessary to convince us we need their product and this initial distrust (paranoia) can defend us from an unneeded purchase. Depending on the charisma of the pusher, our minds may be set at ease and become vulnerable to their suggestions. However the wise will remind themselves not to be influenced by those who may not be looking out for our best interests and resist the manipulation.

If resistance against the machine is psychologically based (ie. too damn stubborn to even consider another idea.) then it is possible those with zen practices may have a better chance to at least be aware of the creeping thought patterns and reject planted ideas even if they considered the ideas as their own.

As I sit here watching cable television propaganda I am aware that the cereal makers are not truly concerned about my child's education and only offer BOX ToPS for education because it brings them money. Parents of school children will spend that extra $1 for a name brand just to get the tops (even when that dollar could go directly to the school!). Does pizzahut really care if my kids can read a book? One tiny reward pizza is a small price when redeeming means the whole family comes in for dinner. The point of these examples are the obfuscated purposes behind the tactic which can be counteracted against when the "victim" is aware of the situation.

In light of what this ray gun can do, how would an angry citizen defend against it?

Awareness.

If the average Joe is aware this technology exists and is angry about it they would have a much better chance of acknowledging stray thoughts as a possible attack even if the action is something they wished to do anyway. And as GI Joe tells us,

Knowing is half the battle... Yo Joe!

Of course this could lead to paranoia and the population second guessing everything they think (maybe a good thing).

Just because you're paranoid, Don't mean their NOT after you!

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Buy a 'convince me' ray gun.

Load the "all later facts beamed into your brain by a 'convince-me' ray gun are not to be believed without the normal level of supporting evidence" ammunition pack.

Fire it at yourself.

3 possibilities:

  • You are already immune to your own suggestion, but will be immune to everyone else's
  • You become immune to it.
  • You destroy yourself, the world, the universe, or the multiverse.
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Capture a copy of the ray gun then reverse engineer it since this will be the best way to figure out how the ideas are encoded and transmitted. Knowing how the gun works will go a long way mounting an effective defense. Capturing one of these weapons should be the highest priority for any resistance group.

Testing will tell if the gun only effects emotions and the intellect or just the intellect. If there are any long term neurological effects, this should come out during testing too. The effectiveness of passive resistance such as dark glasses vs the effect of active filtering by something like Google Glass or Microsoft HoloLense can also be studied. Psychological countermeasures can also be developed and real sanity checks found.

Depending on how the ray gun is constructed and operates, it may be possible for the resistance fighters to construct their own version and take the fight back to this undisclosed organization or just influence the general population to greater resistance.

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We can defend against it the same way we defend against other weapons: by making its use against non-consenting adults illegal.

In theory we can defend against regular firearms by wearing body armour, but that's very impractical. Instead we either ban the firearms themselves, or we ban using them on other people, or some flavour of in-between.

Although convincing people of arbitrary ideas isn't as drastic as killing them, you could argue that it's pretty severe, so as soon as the gun's existence is widely known, there'll be strong pressure to limit its use.

Of course, what this really results in, assuming that the enforcement is effective, is that the state will have a monopoly on its use, similar to firearms.

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  • $\begingroup$ How you proove you were hitted by the gun if the first idea implanted in the operation is "do not report that fact to the police"? Real guns leave visible effect like bleeding etc. $\endgroup$ – GameDeveloper Oct 6 '15 at 19:55
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The obvious solution is gouging out your own eyeballs. I suspect there is mythological precedence for this (e.g. as a defense against monsters/magic/etc. dependent on seeing) but I can't think of a specific example. I know I've seen analogous examples in fiction for effects that depend upon hearing, with characters destroying their own ears to render them immune.

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Logical Argumentation and Idea Development

This is the type of thing that really makes me sad about societies in general. There's a large degree of populations around the world who due to life experience become very a posteriori, meaning, due to past experiences they negate the logical steps that took them to the conclusion, and thus if a premise is changed, and the conclusion should change, it won't.

Here's an example:

Sally works at a bar, to get to the bar she has to exit her house, turn right, walk 100 distance units (meters, yards, doesn't matter), turn left, another 100 units then turn left, and finally walk up to the bar. She does this every day. One day, a new building was finished, right infront of her house and it had an arch underneath. The route she always used was used because she was hit by the ray gun a few years ago. After the building was finished, she was shot by the gun again to ensure that she will keep on the same path. The best path however is to cut into the new building, effectively just needing to walk straight ahead.

If she thinks about it everyday, from the premises working up to a complete theory whenever she leaves her home, she will realize that going around the block only takes more time. Walking straight foward is simpler.

This is actually very important in current societies due to people starting to become brainless sheeps, where your mentioned Raygun is actually current politics (Both in Politics, News and Finances)

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Depending on how your idea is encoded; LCD sunglasses that flicker in an ideally random fashion. Do it at a speed that wouldn't interfere with vision or brain function too much.

I am envisioning (hee hee) that the ideas are encoded in some kind of Hollywoody magical computer code; e.g. imagine they send a "ZIP file" but the sunglasses just let random fragments through; the ZIP file is useless at the other end.

Idea not implanted. Vive la Resistance!

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  • $\begingroup$ Just noticed Daniel Wagner posted this basic idea in a comment above. I honestly didn't see it :) $\endgroup$ – Whelkaholism Oct 6 '15 at 9:50
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Flamethrower

The CMRG could be melted with a flamethrower. If that fails, then it will wound the CMRG user past the point of using it.

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  • $\begingroup$ A good offense is the best defense. $\endgroup$ – vulpineblazeyt Oct 7 '15 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ A flamethrower is the best defense, offense, toy... $\endgroup$ – Wick Jul 12 '16 at 1:06
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Because the victim must see the ray gun, the blind are instantly immune. Anyone who can see could just always have an object in hand to cover their eyes, assuming that the ray gun actually needs to be fired first and eye contact does not immediately activate it.

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What is considered a visible object? Could glass or transparent plastic block the ray? then sunglasses will be enough to stop it.

  • Making the assumption that the gun operates and NEED to operates in full visible spectrum a defense could be blocking partially the spectrum (ie. yellow lenses).

In such case people that is colorblind could be naturally immune.

If the idea have to be perceived but not "exactly" instead (because we "decipher" the light), then any device that do not interfere exagerately with vision could not block the idea implanting (so flickering or colored lenses/ sun glasses could not work).

  • You don't mentioned how the gun works exactly (we see flashes, yes, but how many in a second? Or is it a continuos ray with interleaved flashes) that may matters because a "reactive lens" could just obscure the part of it that is traversed by light (of course there will still be a little exposure of few milliseconds, depends on you if that is sufficient to implant ideas).

The reactive lenses (already existing technology by the way) could be very effective against continuos rays, less effective against flash bursts.

Since the gun works using "our vision" it seems natural the only way to defend against it is protecting with a sort of glasses or impeding vision with a phisical barrier.

  • Polarized lenses with a small gyroscope could randomly change angulation to block all directed rays apart rays from one direction (may be full effective or partial effective).

  • Use night vision goggles, infrared is not in visible light spectrum!

  • Use a hat, don't look too many distant objects, look only at ground. This can be ineffective since we can't focus on the same thing the whole day and first or later we will forget to don't look around.

  • smoke grenades could be as well as effective if gun position is known in advance.

  • you could wear a smoke machine, you can find those actually at small sizes and decent prices (I don't know how much feasible is walking wrapped in a cloud of smoke/fog and you have to reload the machine somehow)


P.S the perfect place to use your weapon accidentally seems to be a concert or a football match (lot of people looking at same stuff for a long time)

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  • $\begingroup$ P.S. Seems Fabio beltramini first had the idea of the smoke machine, I just noticed it now :) $\endgroup$ – GameDeveloper Oct 6 '15 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ Polarized Lense idea is by konqi, sorry again :D $\endgroup$ – GameDeveloper Oct 6 '15 at 19:45
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Step 1.) Check and see how much resistance and/or awareness the general public has towards this ray-gun and/or to this organization

Step 2.) Use inductive reasoning.

     If (You and peers know about ray-gun and/or organization)
              Then this ray-gun either doesn't work or doesn't work well 
     If (Ray-gun does work and does work well)
              Then it'd be used to project the idea of its non-existence

Also worth considering, as a defensive action, is to mail large amounts of batteries to all addresses possible. These batteries should look brand new but the packaging should secretly contain some new and charged, some used and died, batteries. As this ray-gun was invented in the 90s and still uses batteries, this action will eventually thwart the grand ray-gun masterminds of our time.

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