disabilities that make typing difficult. It could also allow people to respond to texts and emails without looking at their phones.
While the social media giant may not be developing this interface to read people’s minds for more accurate marketing information, ethical issues, such as an individual’s right to privacy and concern about data mining, underscore the project. Facebook is trying to get ahead of these concerns by emphasizing that the technology will only be used to send thoughts people would speak out loud and share. “You take many photos, you choose to share some of them,” said Dugan. “Similarly you have many thoughts, you choose to share some of them.”
Facebook also announced it will put together an independent Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) panel to oversee the development of the technology.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Dugan was sympathetic to people’s concerns. “I’ve never seen a technology that you developed with great impact that didn’t have unintended consequences that need to be guardrailed or managed. In any new technology you see a lot of hype talk, some apocalyptic talk and then there’s serious work which is really focused on bringing successful outcomes to bear in a responsible way.”
She continued, “The flip side. . . is ‘why invent at all?’ and I just believe that the optimistic perspective is that on balance, technological advances have really meant good things for the world if they’re handled responsibly.”
The technology is already out there
Some brain-technology interfaces are already being used in the medical field for people who have intact cognitive function and emotional processing but are unable to communicate because of paralysis. In order to speak, muscles in the tongue, lips, mouth, vocal cords, and respiratory system need the ability to contract.
A 2017 study enabled four patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to communicate despite a complete lack of muscle movement. Researchers used a functional near-infrared spectroscopy to read changes in the brain. The person used an attention related process to answer personal questions with known answers and open questions requiring a “yes” or “no” thought. The spectroscope evaluated oxygen levels in the frontal lobe and was able to read their answers
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