Facebook to Brainbook

Ever since humans have thought of communication without the spoken language. Be it a dream or a trip on psychoactive drugs such as LSD, all available ways seemed to be a valid approach. Nowadays we learn that utopias get real even faster than expected. Recent artificial intelligence techniques including deep learning neural nets show us an astonishing progress in domains once regarded as purely human, in particular in pattern recognition. These pattern recognitino techniques could be used to "read the mind" from timeseries derived from brain activity. But what happens if commercial companies meet scientific progress- or when commercial compannies drive scientific progress?

One of the latest steps in this direction is the announcement of facebook that it is trying to develop a tool that will non-invasively capture brain activity to enable a human being to spell 100 words a minute without speaking - merely by thinking of these words. During the latest developer conference in San José, facebook executive Regina Dugan spoke about a possible tool that would acccomplish that goal. Although up to now within the scientific community the EEG and fMRI are regarded as state of the art when it comes to brain computer interfaces, the facebook company tries to dig deeper: optical imaging system are regarded as the most promising tools to enable humans to decode 100 word per minute for external digital usage.

Mark Zuckerberg himself declares that "Eventually, we want to turn it into a wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale.", however not answering the question of ethical issues (how or when is it desirable to share human thoughts ad hoc). Still, one should not underestimate the power of financially independent research groups that might do the job. If it is possible, mankind will make it. And what we learn each day concerning the progress of artificaial intelligence, including deep learning, is that progress will take place at a fast pace. So although I don`t know any other tool to record brain activity that is closer to the true than M/EEG ( in a non-invasively manner), the future will tell where we should aim at. All efforts, be it EEG or other "optical imaging" modalities, should aim at making the future a humanistic one without ethical flaws. So let`s stay in touch and communicate about the progress on brain research. The IPEG society tries to be such a place to share and communicate new findings independent of financial aspects.

Sebastian Olbrich

President of the IPEG

Posted on 21 apr 2017


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