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"I do think there is a link in that in both cases, writing fiction or writing a computer program, at any given moment you're focusing on a very specific and particular thing—one word, one line of code, whatever."
- Neal Stephenson

Sympathetic Block  
  A way to keep certain mental contents from being spoken or revealed.  

This technovelgy takes advantage of the connections between the cerebral cortex and the autonomic nervous system. If you are consciously aware that the intention to reveal protected information arises in your mind, your central nervous system shuts down essential body functions. This might go through what we now call the emotional brain.

"They've been given Sympathetic Blocks. You know about SBs, girl? Intelligence uses them for espionage agents. Take a certain body of information you don't want told. Link it with the sympathetic nervous system that controls autonomic respiration and heart beat. As soon as the subject tries to reveal that information, the block comes down, the heart and lungs stop, the man dies, your secret's kept. An agent doesn't have to worry about killing himself to avoid torture; it's been done for him."
From The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester.
Published by Berkley in 1956
Additional resources -

A similar concept is seen in Methuselah's Children, by Robert Heinlein, which was written in 1958 (see hypnotic injunction).

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Stars My Destination
  More Ideas and Technology by Alfred Bester
  Tech news articles related to The Stars My Destination
  Tech news articles related to works by Alfred Bester

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