Neuralink, Elon Musk

Facebook’s F8 conference went through a second, highly eventful day today. While yesterday’s focus was on upgrading the existing technologies and products, today was spent addressing the future and the form it could take. In a very interesting stage pitch, Regina Dugan, head of Facebook’s building 8 group talked about turning thoughts into text.

However, that was without using implants. The technology Facebook is thinking about deploying for this purpose would take the form of an external device. However, that is not a declaration of the company’s vote against the use of implants. Indeed, Dugan actually refereed to a Stanford experiment that envisions the use of small pea sized electrodes implanted directly inside your brain.

Now I don’t know about you, but I am not sure if all of my thoughts are as chaste as I would like the world to think. I mean come on, who hasn’t thought about running your best friend over, sending your sibling to the moon, melting the earth into a giant puddle of chocolate and so on. Okay, so maybe the last one is just me but the point I have been trying to make should be clear. Facebook is not exactly the last word on dealing with privacy.

And i am not sure if I would be comfortable with turning over the keys to my innermost thoughts to a corporate entity, or indeed, any entity. I mean what next? Advertisements played directly into our brains? Think about feeling thirsty and instantly have a video of Leonardo DiCaprio recommending his favorite sports drink play inside your skull? This may sound far fetched at present but think about it this way: With a brain-cortical interface, you could do anything you would have done via a smartphone — including making purchases, That is the whole point isn’t it? Do you see where this is leading up to?

Dugan of course, has reassurances to offer on the topic of brain implants, or indeed any device that could read thoughts. She said that these devices wouldn’t be able to read your “silent” thoughts. Instead, you would be allowed to control a “brain mouse” that would control which thoughts went out into the public and which stayed private. Dugan says that you could one day type up to 100 words per minute. Wow! But no ads please.

Meanwhile, the tech is still years away. There are people saying “decades” but on this point, I beg to differ. Humans have a tendency to latch on to things they are excited about and boy, are we excited about the idea of being able to communicate with our thoughts? Facebook already has dozens of scientists working on the tech and hopes to have a system ready for public display in a few years time. After that? A different world altogether, even with the most reined in of imaginations.

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