Facebook wants to create a device that can read your mind — literally. It’s funding research on brain-machine interfaces that can pick up thoughts directly from your neurons and translate them into words, the company announced in a blog post last week.
The short-term goal is to help patients with paralysis, by decoding their brain signals and allowing them to “speak” their thoughts without ever having to move a muscle. That could be a real public good, significantly improving quality of life for millions of people. In the US alone, 5.4 million people currently live with paralysis.
But Facebook’s long-term goal is to reach a much, much wider audience: The aim, it says, is to give all of us the ability to control digital devices — from keyboards to augmented reality glasses — using the power of thought alone. To do that, the company will need access to our brain data. Which, of course, raises some ethical concerns.