For some time now, Facebook has ceased to know just where we are, who we are with and what we do. It is not enough to recognize our personal preferences and activities. These may be known by any technological application based on our likes, to whom we follow and communicate and what we buy. Also all of these applications and networks can hear what we say on our phone. These applications collect data about what we say and do, group them and sell them to whichever company bids.
But there is still a limit beyond which all technologies and their companies have not been able to penetrate: the human mind. Can anyone imagine what would happen if a company were able to read our minds and profit from the information it derives from it? That looks like Facebook’s next target.
The company founded by Mark Zuckerberg has begun funding a number of researches that are developing “speech decoders” capable of detecting what human subjects want to say through their brain messages, stressed in an article published on Facebook’s own blog.
One of the studies, funded by the web application and led by scientists at the University of California, San Diego, was recently published in the journal Nature Communications. The research focuses on how we can use machines only with our thoughts. To this end, mechanisms have been designed to ‘read’ the brain messages and try to identify what the human subject intends to say.
As MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) comments on this,
“The researchers placed electrode plates in the volunteers’ brain. They were then asked a series of questions, requiring the research subjects to provide simple answers. Such as ‘do you prefer a piano, or a violin?’ The system was trying to identify both the question and the answer.”
Although the results of the research are still in their early stages, the researchers concluded that:
“The brain activity recorded while people were talking could be used to decode -almost simultaneously- what it says and translate it into text on a computer screen.”
Facebook itself assures that if the machine was capable of recognizing only some mental commands, such as ‘start’, ‘select’ and ‘delete’, this would already be sufficient to install new forms of interaction with the applications.
In its official blog, Facebook says it aims to create a new and non-invasive interface that will allow users to write directly using their thinking, “imagining themselves talking”. Going a step further, Facebook seeks to develop a handset that will allow users to use their thoughts to control music, or interact with virtual reality. To achieve this goal, the social media network has funded research into systems that “tune” the brain out of the skull through optical fibers, or lasers, that measure changes in blood flow — a portable magnetic resonance imaging machine.
Normally a question arises here. What will Facebook do with this information?
The official version is that the company’s goal is simply to improve the interaction between machine and human. But what is the price e.g. of activation through the thought of the music that the subject wants to hear? It’s that the company will be able to process the brainwaves emitted while someone is walking. With these machines, Facebook will be able to detect and translate brain messages, whatever the subject’s thoughts are. This would give it even more information than already has and in a much more immediate time. It will not have to wait for reactions from a publication, but will simply identify what our own minds are reacting to. Basically, there will be no secret between the user and the social media.
“It’s one of the first “loud” examples of a technology giant seeking to extract data directly from people’s minds“,
emphasized in the MIT Technology Review. In the same post, neuro-ethics professor at Duke University Nita Farahani observes that:
“We are at the point of crossing the last limit of our privacy without any means of protection.“
Or echoing Michel Foucault, the complete “biopolitical” control of human life and society is already at the forefront.