Look, I love a good technological advancement just as much as the next gal, but sometimes technology is just a little too advanced for me. (Targeted ads on Facebook for the dress I was just looking at on Madewell? Yeah, no thanks. Stop following me, Facebook.) So, as you can imagine, I was a little freaked out when I read that Facebook is working on a way to, essentially, read our minds.
Oh, you didn't know they were doing that? YEAH, THEY'RE DOING THAT.
Here's the deal. Facebook holds an annual conference for developers to discuss the future of technology called the F8 conference. At this year's event, Facebook's vice president of engineering Regina Dugan (who also heads up the super secret Building 8) announced that the company was working on two projects focused on "silent speech communications." One of those projects? A system that will allow users to type with their brains.
Over the next 2 years, we will be building systems that demonstrate the capability to type at 100 wpm by decoding neural activity devoted to speech.
Just as you take many photos and decide to share some of them, so too, you have many thoughts and decide to share some of them in the form of the spoken word.
A few minutes ago at F8, we shared a project we're working on that will one day allow us to choose to share a thought, just like we do with photos and videos. Our brains produce enough data to stream 4 HD movies every second. The problem is that the best way we have to get information out into the world -- speech -- can only transmit about the same amount of data as a 1980s modem. We're working on a system that will let you type straight from your brain about 5x faster than you can type on your phone today. Eventually, we want to turn it into a wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale. Even a simple yes/no "brain click" would help make things like augmented reality feel much more natural. Technology is going to have to get a lot more advanced before we can share a pure thought or feeling, but this is a first step.Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, April 19, 2017
"But wait," you say to yourself. "Does that mean that Zuckerberg and company are trying to hook my actual brain up to a computer?" YES FRIEND, THAT'S WHAT IT MEANS.
According to Vice, the only systems allowing users to turn brainwaves into text that currently exist require surgical implants. Vice reports that Dugan's team is trying to develop "a non-invasive system of optical sensors that can scan the brain up to 100 times per second."
Basically, what I'm hearing is that Facebook wants to turn us all into the chubby robo-people from Wall-E.
The technology doesn't exist yet, but Facebook is working on it. Vice says the company has already spent six months collaborating on the project with scientists and researchers from universities including San Francisco, Berkeley, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins applied physics laboratory, and the Washington University school of medicine in St. Louis.
Naturally, news of technology that would quite literally allow Facebook to read our thoughts raised some concerns about privacy.
They better embed privacy into its design: Facebook has 60 people working on how to read your mind | Technology https://t.co/cO25GqYOVf— Ann Cavoukian (@AnnCavoukian) April 20, 2017
In order to put those fears to rest, Dugan said at F8,
We are not talking about decoding your random thoughts.
You have many thoughts, you choose to share some of them.
We’re talking about decoding those words. A silent speech interface – one with all the speed and flexibility of voice.
So Facebook *could* try to decode my innermost thoughts, but promises not to?
Anyway. The technology for this new mind-reading Facebook doesn't exist yet, so we won't have to worry about for the time being. In the meantime, you can watch the whole, terrifying key note speech about Facebook's plans to infiltrate our brain below.
God, and I thought the facial recognition software was freaky. If anyone would like to go halfsies on a remote cabin in the woods where we can go off the grid and live off the land, please let me know.