“That’s the central question I ask in Nexus,” he says. “If we all have brain implants, you can imagine it driving a very bottom’s up world — another Renaissance, a world where people are free and creating and sharing more new ideas all the time. Or you can imagine it driving a world like that of 1984, where central authorities are the ones in control, and they’re the ones using these direct brain technologies to monitor people, to keep people in line, or even to manipulate people into being who they’re supposed to be. That’s what keeps me up at night.”
Warwick, on the other hand, told me that the “biggest risk is that some idiot — probably a politician or business person — may stop it from going ahead.” He suspects it will lead to a digital divide between those who have and those who do not, but that it’s a natural progression very much in line with evolution to date.
In response to the question of privacy, Sandberg quipped, “Privacy? What privacy?”
Our lives, he says, will reside in the cloud, and on servers owned by various companies that also sell results from them to other organizations.
“Even if you do not use telepathy-like systems, your behaviour and knowledge can likely be inferred from the rich data everybody else provides,” he says. “And the potential for manipulation, surveillance and propaganda are endless.”
On io9, commenter Anekanta says:
I’m skeptical of both the feasibility and desirability of this. There’s a lot of risks.
1) identity loss—whose thoughts are you really thinking, when you’re enmeshed in a telepathic network?
2) people have dirty, dirty minds. I know I do. There’s things in my head I’d rather not share; and there’s absolutely things in other people’s heads I’d rather they didn’t share, at least with me. The thought of a telepathic 4chan or corporate ad spam invading my thoughts and dreams is not in anyway palatable.
3) “mental contagion”—I know that sounds creepy, but think about it. Someone might invent a computer virus that cripples half the planet when it takes over their implants. There’s also the idea of bad memes… I have yet to read World War Z, but I’ve read the first chapter in which the author talks about how quickly fear can spread over a highly integrated communications network; and defeat a population completely long before the real threat arrives. Every time there’s a major terrorist attack or natural disaster, the entire world could be infected with waves of crippling fear. I’ll refrain from getting into the implications if some crazy fad religion or other ideology became too popular—dissenters minds could be literally overwhelmed with spam.
4) I don’t know about you, but I need a lot of alone time. I have quite enough of other people in my head without telepathy (what was it Sartre said? “Hell is other people?”). So having to process stray thoughts from my friends, family, and the people I follow on social networks all the time just seems depressing. I have enough trouble just keeping up with my twitter feed and my external experiences.
So no… thanks, I’ll keep my inner life to myself, and only share it through the traditional means, if it’s all the same to anyone. Like many post-human visions of the future, this one might sound great on paper, but really falls apart when you think about the practical implications.