Author(s): Peter Bryer
It's easier to dismiss new ideas than support them.
In a recent Facebook Townhall meeting, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg predicted, that at some point, people would be able to communicate thoughts and feelings telepathically. This is fascinating forecasting for a company dealing in social interactions. Will thoughts and feelings soon replace clicks?
Mr Zuckerberg stated his belief that we will one day be able to "send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology". However, making vague, futuristic predictions isn't completely risk-free — the notion of digitising ideas and emotions through brain waves sounds far-fetched, and Mr Zuckerberg has received a fair share of virtual scorn for the prediction. The concept suggests that the social networks of the future could be powered by head-worn devices that read minds, if the user allows.
This could be disregarded as a wild prophecy on the part of Facebook's CEO if the technology hadn't partially arrived already. Brain–computer interfaces (BCIs) have been around for years, and impulses can be used to complement current device input methods in some very specific ways. Some BCI-related start-ups are already among the hot properties, and companies like Emotiv Systems and NeuroSky have real products available through mainstream retail channels.
An immediate use for thought-recognition technology is assisting the disabled — a worthwhile cause for many neuroscientists. Mr Zuckerberg's vision is still a long way off, despite current research, but it's worth debating. Will this be a user interface of future devices, or will the general audience even entertain the idea given security concerns?
Facebook is also financing research into other long-term interface shifts. This includes artificial intelligence to support more predictive services and virtual reality, which the company predicts may become the next major computing and communications platform. It's a vision that could pay off decades down the road.
There's no threat of lack of strategic vision at Facebook, and the company's long-term investments indicate a clear understanding that all things change. A vivid imagination is a healthy ingredient for forecasting. Mr Zuckerberg is thinking the right way.