Digital Warriors - The next MK Ultra?

(Douglas Rushkoff, the author of Life Inc., is a guest blogger.)

I've been working on a year-long PBS Frontline project called Digital Nation, which will culminate as a one-hour tv documentary next January. We're looking a whole lot of subjects, all from the perspective of how what it means to be human is changing as we migrate further into the digital realm (if that metaphor even holds). We're posting as much video as possible as we go.

The above piece about the "infantry immersion trainer" looks at the integration of virtual simulations into military training, as well as for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder after tours of duty. The weird part for me - well, the two weird parts - were that this training was also developed, in part, to "desensitize" soldiers to certain aspects of war. They say it is to lessen the effects and reduce post-traumatic stress. But all of the psychologists I've spoken with since then say it doesn't work like that - that the stress simulations just compound the total stress. And, second, that I had nightmares for a good week after all this - less from the shooting of civilians part than the little driving simulation, which reminded me of a fatal car crash back in 1985.

I guess the lesson for me was that the resolution of the simulation is a lot less important than the intention and mindset with which one approaches the experience. As with any hallucinatory experience, set and setting are everything.