April 20, 2017
that it assembled a team of 60
to develop a technology
allowing users to
"think" commands and messages
at their smartphones.
The system would be able to
literally read your mind…
What could go wrong...?
at Facebook are going down a path
that can only be described as post-Orwellian...
Not satisfied with the
fact that their users willingly share their most intimate
information on a daily basis, Facebook is looking to reshape the
world and decipher thoughts that haven't even been verbalized.
In February, Mark Zuckerberg released the "Facebook
Manifesto" which, under a thin veil of altruistic
vocabulary, hid a
dystopian vision of a "connected
world" where the flow of information was overseen and propagated
using artificial intelligence and elaborated algorithms.
But that's not enough...
On April 19th, the company revealed
most ambitious (and scary) project to date.
Regina Dugan, head of Facebook's
hardware innovation division Building 8,
at F8 - the company's annual developer conference.
Facebook has assembled a team of 60 people, including machine
learning and neural prosthetics experts, brain-computer interface
engineers and neural imaging engineers, to create a "mind reading"
It's system would be
capable of typing one hundred words per minute - straight from one's
Facebook plans to
develop non-invasive sensors that can measure brain activity
hundreds of times per second at high resolution to decode brain
signals associated with language in real time.
technology exists today; we'll need to develop one."
Facebook is looking
at using optical imaging - using lasers to capture changes in
the properties of neurons as they fire - to glean words straight
from our brain before we say them.
If these signals can
be read, they can be transmitted silently to other people.
If the thought that a company that makes almost all of its money
from harvesting your personal data could also have access to
your thoughts is scary, that's because it is.
Regina Dugan attempted to
assuage people's fears by pointing out that Facebook would only
decode the words you were going to say anyway.
"It's not about
decoding random thoughts," she said.
about decoding the words you've already decided to share by
sending them to the speech center of your brain."
Facebook has 60 people working on how to
read your mind
So Facebook is telling
people to not be concerned about their thoughts being constantly
read by a machine because it would only be able to decode words one
was "about to say".
However, the goal of that
technology is to read thoughts - without them being said - and to
translate them into computer commands.
How can a clear
line be drawn between what can and cannot be read in the
nebulous realm of human thought?
How can we
guarantee that this kind of technology won't be used to
actually monitor and control people's thoughts?
Are there even
people willing to give up the sanctuary of their own
thoughts for the slight convenience of not moving one's
finger on a touchscreen?
Another reason why
Facebook is looking to be able to read brainwaves is to push its
augmented reality technology.
Another reason why
Facebook wants to read our brain activity is to develop the
equivalent of a "brain mouse" for augmented reality.
She painted a picture
of a future where everyone wears augmented reality glasses that
supplement our field of vision with additional information such
as directions, and enhanced capabilities such as real-time
translation of people's voice or the ability to "mute" specific
people and noises from your sound-scape.
What's lacking in
this augmented future is a user interface. When we don't have a
smartphone or a computer mouse, how can we select and click on a
piece of digital content?
That's where the brain-computer interface comes in.
Facebook appears to be
keen on answering questions nobody ever asked.
Although the technology
is presented as a way of "staying connected with the people around
us" reducing the need to look at one's screen - the true goal of
this technology is painfully obvious.
They want to know what
you're thinking. All the time...