In Philip Pullman’s trilogy of novels, His Dark Materials, the characters travel between many worlds existing in parallel universes. In one of these universes, the soul, or inner-self of a human lives outside their body as a spirit-being called a dæmon which takes on an animal form and accompanies their human throughout every moment of their life.
In Pullman’s books, it is explained that humans in our own world have dæmons as well, but rather than physical creatures that walk beside us and speak aloud as we do, they live within us, speaking softly in our minds and allowing us to engage in the internal conversations and debates that make up our thoughts and lead us to knowledge.
In the first book of the trilogy, The Golden Compass, an authoritarian organization seeking to monopolize all knowledge and subdue their subjects create a process called "intercision" by which the invisible link between a person and their dæmon is permanently severed by use of a special guillotine.
The proponents of this "surgery" believe that a person’s dæmon is the source of sinful thoughts and heretical knowledge, and view intercision as a sort of "vaccination" against the ability to sin.
However, as the heroine Lyra discovers, the result of the severing a person from their dæmon is not a blissful life of innocence, but a hellish half-life in which unwilling victims of the surgery are left longing desperately for the irreplaceable missing part of themselves, while willing volunteers who have undergone the process live in a numb, zombie-like stupor in which which they are totally complacent and unable to question authority.
Though in our reality, our "dæmons", (or rather everything about us that a dæmon would represent) exist within us and are safe from physical harm, the possibility of eliminating from a person what constitutes their dæmon may be a frighteningly real one.
All types of increasingly sophisticated and effective mind altering devices and methods have been created over the years, some by well meaning scientists wanting to understand the human mind, and others by governments and other organizations to suppress subdue, and control people.
One of these methods which particularly parallels Pullman’s concept of intercision is the infamous lobotomy, a form of brain surgery which was once carried out quite frequently on small children as a cure all remedy for undesirable behavior ranging from disobedience to poor school performance. Like intercision, lobotomy was promoted to parents as a quick, easy solution for all their children’s difficulties, and like intercision it left many previously healthy children severely incapacitated.
As famously described by childhood lobotomy patient Howard Dully, "I've always felt different -- wondered if something's missing from my soul.", a statement which could have come straight from a victim of Pullman’s fictional intercision process.
As our knowledge of the human brain becomes more and more acute, and scientists learn to scan brains by computer to pick out the precise sources of specific emotions, ideas, and thought processes, it is no longer a stretch of the imagination to imagine, for instance, a drug precision engineered to effect a specific brain function in exactly the way the designer wishes.
It could start off nobly and innocently, say an injection that could be administered to a patient struggling with drug abuse that shuts down the part of the brain which processes and harbors the addiction.
It could then develop into something pre-emptive to stop addiction before it has a chance to start, an "addiction vaccine" that could possibly be required by law for all public school students as certain vaccines already are in some countries.
While we’re protecting our kids against disease and addiction, how else could we make their lives safer and easier?
After all, its always around those tween and teen years that kids start being disobedient and picking up all sorts of bad habits, so why not have the doctor throw in a disobedience vaccine? And In the end, isn’t it always those silly thoughts and ideas that get kids into trouble anyway? With a thorough enough understanding of the brain, we can find a way to eliminate those too.
And that easily we’ve gone from helping a person overcome drug addiction to accepting that government mandated mutilation of our children’s personhood is an acceptable measure to keep them "safe and happy".
In the film adaptation of The Golden Compass, the doctors assure their victims as they prepare to sever them from their dæmons that intercision is "only a little cut".
In our world, that same threat to our humanity could be "only a little shot" from a doctor’s needle, and it could have an innocent sounding trademarked name and be marketed on television and radio as to make any parent feel like a monster for subjecting their children to the hardships of an "unimproved" life and not doing everything they could to keep their child "safe and happy" when all it would take is a little shot to make it all better.
In an increasingly dysmorphic, germ-phobic, vaccine-obsessed society seeking easy answers to the challenges of the human condition, such an "intercision shot" could become a state-mandated inoculation for our children much sooner than we may care to imagine.