A few days ago, Facebook (News - Alert) founder Mark Zuckerberg fielded questions during an hour long question and answer session on the social network. In response to a Facebook user’s question on where the website is heading, the company leader said helping people share information is one of his key aims, especially using video.
He followed his comments up with the following statement, “One day, I believe we’ll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too if you’d like.”
Several thoughts come to mind reading this statement, first is “These are not the droids you’re looking for.” I’m sure that everyone knows the reference. The second thought is all the futuristic movies I watched growing up where all the cool advanced beings used telepathy to communicate, while us lesser beings had to open our mouths to get our thoughts across.
Anyone that has watched the news over the past several decades knows that scientists have already discovered ways to create computer brain interfaces, or the ability for computers to translate brain waves into software commands, as well as the other way around. I have seen several reports showing that a person can manipulate the screen cursor by simply thinking about what they want to do.
The problem is that this usually involves some sort of surgery to implant wires directly to the brain, which then connect to some sort of helmet to send the signals to the computer. Most of these types of experiments have dealt with motion commands, what Zuckerberg has in mind goes way beyond this. He said, "There are a few important trends in human communication that we hope to improve. Our lives improve as our communication tools get better in many ways."
I suppose that if you can send thoughts to move objects, it reasons that you should also be able to send thoughts as images. In fact, a team of cognitive scientists at the University of California at Berkeley have been able to reconstruct clips of movies their subjects were watching, based solely on measurements of their brainwaves. According to theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, “You could not see the close-up details but you could clearly identify the kind of object you were seeing.”
To me this brings to mind some of the experiments that both the U.S. and Russia were conducting in the 1960s concerning remote viewing. A person with telepathic powers would focus on coordinates supplied to them and they would draw what they saw. The idea behind this was that they would select a target without boots on the ground as it were. Instead today we have unmanned drones with HD video.
The ideas that Zuckerberg sees as the future is not a new way of thinking, over the centuries the idea has been suggested, talked about and tested. According to Mark Harris at the MIT (News - Alert) Technology Review, “‘Telepathy’ technology remains so crude that it’s unlikely to have any practical impact.”
In a very watered down description, essentially our brains work by sending electrical signals through a series of synapses that tell our bodies what to do. Tesla tried to send electrical current through the air and was successful, by the way, unfortunately I believe that the furthest that scientists were able to go recently was seven feet. I believe that at that distance I could use facial expressions to get my thoughts across.
There are a few other things to keep in mind, such as if your thoughts are going out over the Internet, would that not mean that anyone could listen in? For communication to work it has to be a two-way street, you send but also have to receive messages. Assume for a moment that you could send a thought, how could you direct it to the right people without others listening to the conversation? On the flip side, if you can hear conversations, how can you filter out what you are listening to? What would happen if your brain was able to hear all of the telepathic conversations going on at once?
I have to assume that since these are Zuckerberg’s idea of where Facebook is heading in the future that this type of telepathic communication would have to take place through some sort of WhatsApp link on Facebook. Does that mean that Skype (News - Alert) and Viber will soon follow suit? I have found that most times it is better that I keep my thoughts to myself!