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"The first thing that's wrong with being a science-fiction writer today is that the present has caught up with the future and surpassed it."
- Peter Watts

Personality Alteration  
  Permanent alternation of personality, the tools of the trade.  

They approached an open door. Emanating from it, as chemical odors from a chemist’s laboratory, Jarles sensed traces of various radiations affecting the human nervous system. Like tiny ghostly hands they tugged at his emotions—alarming, reassuring, angering, soothing.

Nervously his eyes swept the room. They were first drawn, as to a focus, to a padded chair, provided with clamps. That was bad. But the mechanisms and instruments around about were those of a psychological laboratory.

The Third Circle priests stepped back. The chair was luxuriously comfortable. But Jarles could not even turn his head.

Electrical and pneumatic recording instruments were attached to his body. Something was injected into his arm. Again Brother Dhomas read his suspicions.

“No, it’s not a truth serum. Extracting the information you possess is merely a side issue. We want much more than the truth from you...

Slowly, one by one at first, then more swiftly and many together, the various instruments in the room revealed their functions. Jarles was assaulted by sights, sounds, tastes, smells, touches, inward tensions. And by emotions.

For now the room was in semidarkness, and from a panel beside Brother Dhomas rose more than a dozen, stubby pillars of different colored light, constantly fluctuating in rhythm with Jarles’ physiological and neurophysiological reactions. Ceaselessly Brother Dhomas’ eyes went from the pillars to Jarles and back again, while his pudgy fingers squirmed like white worms over the control panel, slowly, tentatively...

“Your experience has shown you that any human mind has the wherewithal—if only in minutest traces—from which any kind of personality can be fabricated. Every person has experienced at one time or another fugitive flashes of hate and cruelty, which, if only sufficiently magnified and strengthened, would make him a monster. Every person has, at least for one split second in his life, wanted to destroy the whole world. You see?

“It is only necessary to maneuver your mind into the desired state—that’s where my maximum judgment and penetration are required—and then freeze your mind by a sudden intensification of the radiations, sufficient to change the neuronic gradients and potentials permanently. If I misjudge and freeze your mind while it is in a state of temporary insanity, that is unfortunate.

Technovelgy from Gather, Darkness!, by Fritz Leiber.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1943
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