Facebook just might be laying the groundwork for mind-reading technology that would let you order from Amazon, search the Web, and play video games just by thinking ‘it’. Forget for a moment the hurdles the company has to overcome for this to work. Why does the vision of this future resemble a nightmare?
Think viruses and ransomware are treacherous now? Once Facebook creates a conduit into your brain, hackers and digital extortionists (including Putin’s minions) are going to take it up a few notches. (Yes, the PEOTUS already seems to have fallen victim.)
The UX issues are going to be just as interesting, and perhaps even more far reaching. Self control is already one of humanity’s major problems. Putting our online lives at the mercy of our shortening attention spans, without even the smallest of physical impediments (you actually won’t have to lift even a finger) keeping your thoughts from global broadcast, could be our downfall. How far do you get into family movie night before everyone’s staring horrified at some nasty website you’ve pulled up on your smart TV, simply because your mind wandered? Stay focused people! (BTW, this brings fights over the remote to a new level.)
Yes, thanks to Twitter, the PEOTUS is already giving us a preview of unfiltered interaction between mind and machine. (He does seem to be an anomaly, doesn’t he?) You have to wonder if this is what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has in mind when he imagines his mind-reading tech allowing us to “send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology.” That’s a “rich” quote, and the PEOTUS is indeed serving up some “rich thoughts”.
Zuckerberg’s dream changes the angle on an already interesting debate about anonymity and our online behavior. There’s an argument in favor of anonymous posts and communication, as they can provide much needed cover for some people. There’s also the argument that if none of us hid behind pseudonyms we’d all be nicer to each other. Sadly, studies have at least partially debunked that notion and, guess what, so has the PEOTUS.
Here’s a theory: commenting anonymously makes it easy to be a jerk, or worse. But perhaps the reason there is so much vitriol, hate, cowardice, ignorance, and hostile difference online is because that’s what we’ve always felt for each other, we just had no way of sharing it. The Internet, and especially social media, has made it so much easier.
Hope that theory gets debunked, too, and that communication can bridge gaps not widen them. But it’s not looking great.
As for Zuckerberg’s mind reader: It looks like more of a Jekyll than a Hyde.