MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Zuckerberg and Musk Aim to Make Telepathy a Reality

Fourth Amendment privacy is more important once our thoughts are stored outside our wetware.

TelepathyWavebreakmediaDreamstimeWavebreakmedia/DreamstimeTelepathy can be defined as the communication of thoughts or ideas by means other than the known senses. Now Tesla's Elon Musk and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg both seem to be aiming to provide humans with the ability to communicate directly brain-to-brain and brain-to-internet. Musk announced last month his new company Neuralink is working on a "neural lace" that would enable people to interface directly with infotech machines and other people. The idea of a neural lace seems based on the wireless brain-computer interfaces installed by characters in the Culture novels by scifi writer Iain M. Banks.

Musk believes that such neural laces would improve human cognitive function by enabling people to achieve symbiosis with artificial intelligence machines. Essentially humans become the singularity rather than being replaced by god-like artificial intelligences. As it happens, researchers at Harvard are developing injectable nanowires that can unfold into a mesh of bendable electronics that interface with brain cells directly.

Mark Zuckerberg is not to be outdone. Earlier this week, Facebook's vice president of engineering Regina Dugan revealed, "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." As PC World reported, "The company's aim is to develop a system that will let people type straight from their brain about five times faster than they can type on their phone today, which will be eventually turned into wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale." The technology would be non-invasive—no electrodes stabbed into brains—and would decode only those words that the person decides to share.

Fourth Amendment privacy protections really need strengthening once our thoughts are stored somewhere outside our wetware. For what it's worth, I personally would go with the Facebook wearable first.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • timbo||

    In defense of this possibility by these two mega-progs, once they figure out how to do stuff like this, it really doesn't matter anymore.

    If we are not already in the matrix, as long as we don't know it when it happens, then good for them.

    Point being that they should have the freedom to innovate like crazy and if they are smart enough and sick enough to want to control everyone, they will probably make everyone's lives better as far as we know.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Musk just needs a new company to keep the financial shell game going.

  • timbo||

    True. Tesla might not survive the slew of lawsuits for the auto pilot and his shareholder suits for buying solar city.
    Not to mention that once the major auto manus figure out good electric cars, they will beat him on price all day long because they are better at getting free taxpayer money than even him.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Once he misses his Tesla3 production target by a few hundred thousand units, he's gonna have some problems.

    Question - how does this douchebag megaprog get away with running non-union shops in this country?

  • timbo||

    They're almost all automated. The videos of production at Tesla are remarkable.

    That and progs also use their proggie cronies to get away with stuff that real men in business don't get to do.

    I thought it was hilarious that he was right next to trump in the roundtable discussions.

    Guys like him have to suck the dick of any politician no matter what.

  • Chipper Mourning Will Grigg||

    Elon Musk, human paladin, is giving you a chance at immortality, and you have the temerity to question his financials?

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Never trust a fighter class dependent on high charisma...

  • Agammamon||

    Ugh, a 3Etard.

  • CE||

    As Captain Kirk once asked, "What does God need with a starship?"

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    So facebook will know if I Like something without me having to click it? Most excellent.

  • timbo||

    Seriously. When they get to the point that I can think of something and it appears within moments then we won't be complaining.
    The robots will soon be doing so much more than we can fathom that the progs better be figuring out how to placate the anger of the thousands of displaced, useless democrats, and many of the rest of us, who are all going to need free drugs and free rent just to keep them from rioting the world over.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I would like to travel 5000 years into the future

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    No.

  • CE||

    Yeah, but what if you're typing something serious at work, and your mind wanders?
    Wasn't there news a few years ago that Google or Yahoo or Microsoft or someone was storing all the rough drafts of in-progress emails to add to your online profile, even if you didn't send them?

  • gaoxiaen||

    It didn't work out so well for the Krell.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Just imagine these squirlz in your brain. No thanks.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Seems like a lot of R&D to find out you like T&A.

  • timbo||

    exactly. There will be another massive building in the dessert that just retains peoples' spank banks.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    "Fourth Amendment privacy protections really need strengthening once our thoughts are stored somewhere outside our wetware."

    This was a pressing issue around the time we invented clay tablets...

  • BYODB||

    And I'm sure these brain interface devices will only transfer information in one direction, right? RIGHT?!?


    Yeah, I think I'd rather not expose my actual brain to the internet. It would only be a matter of time until someone hacked you. Probably the inventor of the device itself, I'd wager, given how both of these yahoo's are pretty much insane as things stand. It should be pretty easy to create a utopia if you just turn off the free will portions of everyone's brains, eh?


    I know, I know, but someone must play the part of the luddite!

  • ||

    And I'm sure these brain interface devices will only transfer information in one direction, right? RIGHT?!?
    ...
    I know, I know, but someone must play the part of the luddite!

    Yeah because there's no way a company as profitable, diverse, and emergent as Facebook could fuck up something as simple reporting of facts right?

  • BYODB||

    I'm not sure what your comment was intended to convey.


    I was talking more about the Musk device rather than the Facebook device in the sense that hooking your brain up to a computer direct link could have dire consequences. (Virus uploads into your nervous system, or some real 'out there' sci-fi stuff.)


    The Facebook story is laughable though. Mainly because if they can't get a simple Voice-To-Speech application working right, what are the odd's they can get a brain translation software right. No offense, but we understand sound waves a whole lot more than we understand the human brain.

  • ||

    The Facebook story is laughable though. Mainly because if they can't get a simple Voice-To-Speech application working right, what are the odd's they can get a brain translation software right.

    Also, pick a direction: Up, Down, Left, Right, Forward, Backward... any direction Facebook transfers information and the notion that they do so in a reliable and trustworthy manner is a joke.

  • Chipper Mourning Will Grigg||

    I bet people will post their stream of consciousness online willingly. A few decades later, it will be "why are you concealing your thoughts if you have nothing to hide"?

  • ||

    A few decades later, it will be "why are you concealing your thoughts if you have nothing to hide"?

    This understates the insanity. One errant thought about someone's skin or a random political candidate will drive everyone else in your whole family to suicide and then people will *still* ask you that question.

  • BYODB||

    Oh, absolutely.

    Although at the same time, I wonder.

    Putting your deepest and darkest thoughts out onto the internet for all to see would probably put a lot of things that the individual person doesn't even know about themselves out there.

    If people think a nude selfie is personal, wait until they find out about your fetish for midget jockey's that even you weren't entirely aware of. ^_^

    It would be worth it just to find out if all of liberalism really is just projection or not though. Aaand then here comes the Pre-Crime Units.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    It'll be awesome on LaserDisc.

  • CE||

    They liked Jim Carrey's Riddler and his set top box.

  • chemjeff||

    Okay that's creepy.

  • The Last American Hero||

    How does the typing thing work in practice?

    If I'm working on a report and the office hottie walks by, does my computer type:

    "So in summary, the we expect the 3rd quarter operating results to oh my god look at that ass. Goddamn 8th wonder of the world."

    No good can come of this.

  • ||

    the we

    If not for typing about the office hottie's ass, then because 90+% of the forums doesn't have grammar, spelling, or markup mastered outside their heads, let alone inside.

  • CE||

    I think you proved your point.

  • MarkLastname||

    So, wouldn't this thing be rendered 99% redundant by good dictation software?

    This sounds very expensive and implausible. It seems like this guy's business model boils down to 'here's a wacky idea from a movie I saw!'

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Fun fact, I make more editing corrections and grammar fixes dictating than I do typing. I find when my can just talk my thoughts out, I have to keep pausing and thinking of decent sentence construction. When I dictate, it starts to sound like stream-of-consciousness crap.

    There are these subtle areas where making things faster doesn't make them better or more efficient.

    I know it's not a great analogy, but I was in a restaurant once back in the early 2000s that had given all the wait staff these PDAs. As you were telling the waitress what you wanted, she was tapping it into the PDA and the order was going right to the kitchen. I had a second thought on my order and she went bolting away from the table back to the kitchen. When she came back, I asked, "Was it something I said?"

    She explained to me that the ordering was so 'instant' and 'just in time' that they were preparing the order as I was practically saying it. So when I changed my mind on part of it, she had to stop the kitchen staff from making it.

    Again, not a great analogy and yes, this could be fixed with technology as well-- ie, don't submit the order until a full 'submit' is made. But again, someone thought "hey, wouldn't it be great if your order began preparing as soon as the words fell out of your mouth?" turned out to be a shitty idea.

  • ||

    But again, someone thought "hey, wouldn't it be great if your order began preparing as soon as the words fell out of your mouth?" turned out to be a shitty idea.

    Agreed!

  • ||

    So, wouldn't this thing be rendered 99% redundant by good dictation software?

    It depends on what you mean by 'this thing'. We can detect human thoughts before the person themselves is conscious of them. It's not to the point, currently, where the computer would figure out what you were going to type before you were aware of it, but it can/could certainly beat out your fingers (though it would probably still require the brain and fingers to be well and coherently trained). Also, it varies widely from person to person but there are large numbers of people quite capable of capturing meaning and thought in their head faster than it can be communicated. Pretty much everybody knows somebody who can perform math in their head faster than anyone they know who can write it down.

    You're probably right that good dictation software would push this invention off 'another decade***** into the future' but, ultimately, the mouth would be the slow/weak in the brain-to-chip upload/download exchange.

  • JeremyR||

    The NSA will love this.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You know who else delved into the paranormal?

  • jdgalt1||

    Just like the present Internet of Needlessly Connected Things, this tech promises no useful capabilities (I already type 70 wpm) in return for giving every hacker and script-kiddie in the world red-carpet access to your own brain!

    I expect plenty of funny stories at the expense of dopes who actually try this gadget, if it makes it to market at all.

  • Robert||

    Is anyone putting a parallel effort into connecting minds directly rather than brains electronically? One of the leaders in that effort, Bert Stubblebine (an acquaintance of mine and friend of a formerly prominently activist libertarian, Ralph Fucetola) died 2 mos. ago. We're trying to see if his mind survived in some way that could allow communication.

  • Chip Your Pets||

    The government will abuse any technology that is available to them. Fourth Amendment notwithstanding.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online