Facebook confirms it is working on mind-reading technology

If you thought your thoughts were safe, think again: social media giant Facebook has confirmed it is developing technology to read your mind and send what’s inside directly through to the internet.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced during the company’s F8 developer conference in San Jose this week that it is working on a “direct brain interface” that will allow users to communicate “using only your mind”.

Work on the project will be conducted be Facebook’s clandestine Building 8 unit, which is charged with creating breakthrough initiatives for the company. Last year, Building 8 revealed through a job listing that it was on the lookout for an engineer who would be responsible for creating a brain-computer interface (BCI) for the company, for a revolutionary type of communications platform.

Said technology would use some form of neuroimaging to map brain activity and then translate it into a format that could be easily understood by others.

Zuckerberg has previously suggested that future versions of Facebook would allow users to “capture a thought” in its perfect form and “share that with the world” – which is equal parts inspiring and terrifying, depending on what’s knocking around your head, not to mention the fact that it poses a lot of worrying questions around privacy and targeted advertising.

Brain-computer interfaces are a radical concept, theoretically allowing humans to communicate with both other people and machines without any type of verbal or physical input. Facebook isn’t the only one interested in the technology: the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) is reported to be developing a “neural interface” that would allow humans to communicate with machines and possibly even pilot vehicles with nothing but thought. Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s Neuralink project aims to merge computers with human brains in order to supplement our own intelligence with that of AI.

This week (18 April), a group of Japanese scientists reported a significant development toward a working brain-computer interface after creating a device capable of recognising numbers and syllables from brain activity.

It’s unclear when Facebook’s direct brain interface will come to fruition, although job listings for the company’s BCI project suggest that it will be running for at least two years. In which case, your thoughts are safe for now.

Owen Hughes