What if, instead of watching you with a camera and filling your head with propaganda through its speakers, the telescreen of George Orwell’s 1984 could instead just read your thoughts and tell you what it wants you to hear just by vibrating the bones in your head? If that sounds like an absolutely terrible technology pitch, then wow do I have some bad news for you.
MIT has created a headset called AlterEgo that’s designed to make it easier for humans to communicate with the technology that we are increasingly tethered to, and it does just that. By reading the signals your brain automatically sends when you think a sentence in your head, it circumvents the awkwardness of using the vocal commands that tons of us already have available on our phones but rarely use as much as our favorite sci-fi stories convinced us we would.
It also talks back to the user through bone vibration so that it’s not as aurally obstructive as standard heaphones, while still remaining discreet. All of that is certainly a technological improvement over the way we deal with voice commands now (and reminds me a lot of how Andrew Wiggin communicates with Jane in the Ender’s Game sequels), but it’s also really creepy when you consider how much of the technology we’ve already got is causing us problems.
Although, we probably don’t have to worry about it for a while, if ever, since right now, AlterEgo somehow manages to be bulkier and less visually appealing than Google Glass, but there’s no reason a less ridiculous version won’t come along in the future and become as ubiquitous as other pieces of tech. And sure, the obvious option to avoid walking around all day with your inner monologue being recorded would just be to not have one, but tell that to people who never thought they’d get a smartphone but were proved wrong by largely unavoidable circumstances.
I’m no luddite, but I hope we, as a society, have our sh*t together more, in terms of preventative steps to make sure technology is more helpful than harmful, when brain-computer interfaces like this become the norm.
(via cnet, image: screengrab)
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