Is Facebook Building a Machine that Can Read Minds?

Mark Zuckerberg has revealed Facebook’s interest in coming up with what is being called a “brain mouse.” In short, this is supposed to be a brain-computer interface, which in more practical terms, means a tool that will let interested individuals send commands to computers and other smart devices using their thoughts and nothing but their thoughts. Theoretically, this is possible, though it will still take an enormous amount of time, effort, and other limited resources to come up with something that can support the kind of widespread use that Zuckerberg is envisioning. Instead, the bigger issue would be the practicality of the “brain mouse” because speaking bluntly, Facebook’s recent shenanigans don’t exactly inspire a great deal of confidence that it can keep such private information both safe and sound. Certainly, there will be people out there who can be convinced to use a “brain mouse” for the sake of novelty if nothing else, but unless Facebook somehow manages to polish up its reputation, it seems unlikely that most people will treat it with anything but leery hesitation in the near future.

Can Mind-Reading Machines Be Created?

At this point, some people might be curious about whether it is even possible to make mind-reading machines or not. If so, they should know that such machines are perfectly possible, so much so that they are actually closer to coming into existence than a lot of other concepts that were once relegated to the realm of science fiction.

In short, scientists have had the ability to detect brain-wave patterns for literal decades by this point in time, meaning that this particular part of the process is a non-issue. Instead, the real barrier has been the ability to make sense of the brain-wave patterns that are being detected, which is something that is being overcome through the use of machine learning as well as other examples of very, very rudimentary AI. Essentially, what happens nowadays is that researchers will use the relevant hardware and software to get readings that can be matched up to particular words, particular images, and the like. After which, they can use said information to map out the relevant parts of the brain, which in turn, helps machines make better interpretations of future readings. On the whole, the process is very crude, but it is nonetheless something that exists in the present, which promises to be continued to be enhanced in the times to come.

As for how far scientists have already gotten, well, suffice to say that a thought-to-text has already been created. To be exact, it is a face-mounted machine that reads the signals that the brain sends to the face so that they can be translated into text. So far, it has managed to get more than 90 percent accurate with just 15 minutes of training, which is rather remarkable when one considers that everyone’s physiology has significant differences from everyone else’s. Granted, the thought-to-text device is still very inconvenient as well as very crude-looking. However, its mere existence serves as a visible reminder that mind reading machines can be built, meaning that their presence on the consumer market is no more than a matter of time.

Why Are Mind-Reading Machines Seeing So Much Interest?

Of course, mind-reading machines are both very exciting and very terrifying. After all, machine-reading machines promise to make a lot of things much more convenient and otherwise beneficial for us. For instance, Facebook’s proposed “brain mouse” would be indeed be a huge improvement on current systems if it wasn’t for the fact that the corporation has shown itself to be a trustworthy custodian of people’s private information. Likewise, mind-reading machines could theoretically be used for everything from finer control over complicated machines to enabling virtual reality consoles of a kind that people can only dream about at the moment. However, the downside is that mind-reading machines would be, well, capable of reading minds, which would come with a lot of potential for abuse. Chances are good that some people are already thinking of totalitarian dystopias monitoring people for thought crimes. However, we don’t need to go that far to come up with something less terrible but still very concerning. After all, Facebook and other tech companies are already good at predicting our shopping habits and other behavioral patterns based on nothing but the information collected through current capabilities. Imagine how well they would be able to predict us if they had literal access to what we were thinking while we were engaged in shopping and other day-to-day activities?

Summed up, it is clear that mind-reading machines possess great potential for both desirable and not so desirable ends. Combined with the fact that they are already coming into existence, now seems like a good time to start talking about their implications sooner rather than later.


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