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Telepathy Tech - The Future of Interaction

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During a recent Q&A Mark Zuckerberg made a bold prediction. He suggested that some years down the line, when technology has caught up, our online communication will be primarily telepathic. Gone will be the emojis, text abbreviations and Pusheen cats of yester-year, replaced by direct thought communication. It's a big statement, some might say a ridiculous one, so does it have any merit? If it does, what does that even mean?

Humans aren't naturally capable of telepathy, lets just nip that in the bud before we move any further. Things like hypnotism and mind manipulation are down to psychology and behavioral study, nothing more. Mind reading though? Complete hokum. What is true is that brain signals can be read using state-of-the-art neurological technology and in some cases data can even be transmitted that way. In one recent case an internet connection was used to enable one person to directly beam thoughts to another person's motor cortex, effectively allowing him to control this person's movements with his thoughts.

This kind of research has applications far more important than social media, it could lead to incredible advancement in medical science and be a route into more effective treatments for psychological disorders. Once again though, we're talking way down the line, once the technology has settled. It will be a long road until we reach that point, especially given that we don't technically actually know what a thought is, yet.

Let's say though, hypothetically, that we do reach a stage where telepathic communication becomes available online, how would it even work? Would you be able to beam specific thoughts across as if you're talking without words or could you pay a more extensive visit to the inside of your friend's head? Would you even want to do that? Presumably this kind of communication would have to be focused and regulated in some way, most people don't think linearly, thoughts are tangential and muddled. The big question is: what advantages would this kind of chatter really afford over text or voice chat?

Speed is the obvious one, you can form a responsive thought in around 300-500 milliseconds, which needless to say is faster than talking and a hell of a lot faster than typing. Whether or not that speed would translate into mental back-chatter is another matter entirely but if this was the case you could theoretically burn through hours of conversation in seconds. 

The other key factor is empathy, in normal conversation the ability to read other people and understand where they are emotionally varies heavily from person to person. There are many ways to get a better idea of it, from body language to tone to diction, but no way to be exactly certain. Some people are open books, others are extremely hard to read. Telepathy would add an entirely new dimension to this, since presumably, the ability to transmit thoughts would remove the emotional filters they pass through before becoming speech. Whether or not you would want to be blasted with somebody else's raw emotional output rather depends on the situation, though.

Primarily, Zuckerberg was hitting on the idea that technology as we know it - something which is always anchored to hardware - will soon disappear. We will always be connected, devices won't be things we 'check' anymore, just conduits to a different plain of communication and data. It sounds insane, but with the advances being made with VR and wearable tech, who knows where we could be in a decade. 

Personally, the whole notion of transmitted thoughts still makes me very uncomfortable, no human has ever had any reason to organise their thoughts in such a way that other people would be able to understand them and I'm not sure exactly how that would work. Brains are beautifully streamlined information networks, but they're also a complete mess, a beehive of memory, experience, emotion and analysis that only make sense to the heads they're housed in. This is all very much speculative though and I'm no neurologist, but if that's the way the world is moving, I guess we'd all better get used to the idea of ordering Dominos with our minds.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Telepathy Tech - The Future of Interaction Reviewed by Callum Davies on Tuesday, July 07, 2015 Rating: 5

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