All sorts of things to talk about in this piece. My comments interspersed. Of course I realize this is just a filler piece -- or "content" as they say; the point is that there are big philosophical decisions embedded in everyday language, and this is a good spot to bring some out. Of course I'm just being persnickety, but it's important to see the lay of the land of the metaphysics of our cultural unconscious, if you'll let me put it that way.
a strange and unsettling new gun being developed by Japanese researchers shoots sound waves in an effort to disrupt and silence anyone who dares speak out of turn.
The gun operates based on the concept of delayed auditory feedback. An attached microphone picks up the sound being made by the target and plays it back 0.2 seconds later. The effect is incredibly confusing to the human brain, making it all but impossible to talk or hold a conversation. The device doesn't cause the person it's being used on any physical harm — it simply messes with their head.
OK, stop right there. You don't have to be a Habermasian to see that this physical vs psychological ("messes with their head") division elides the "person" as member of society recognized via speech. "Speech" isn't the only medium of recognition of course, but it is an important one.
When the human brain hears its own speech perfectly in sync during normal speech, it easily processes the input and allows you to largely ignore the sound of your own voice.
Ontological level mixing alert! Not so fast there, pal, in moving from "the human brain" to "you." Brains don't really "hear" anything; they are the subvenience base for people or "subjects" to hear things.
However, by offsetting the response just a bit, the brain hears your mouth speaking as well as the strange echo effect produced by the gun. This unusual combination is confusing enough to effectively shut down the part of your brain responsible for managing speech, and you fall immediately silent.
Alright, three serious points here (with a joke after the second point!):
1) The extended / embedded mind folks argue the causal vs constitutive distinction: is the auditory feedback here merely causal support for a cognitive process going on inside the head, or is it constitutive of a process with both internal and external components? (This is a grotesque caricature of a sophisticated and ongoing debate, but what do you want from a blog post?)
2) What about the inverse case? Would a Cone of Silence also disrupt speech?
3. All these questions can be addressed in a neurophenomenological idiom. But quite possibly also in a neuro(post-)phenomenology idiom: what is is the economy of exteriority at work in "hearing yourself speak"?