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by futurist consultant Ersan Seer

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Thought Interfaces / Electronic Thought Are the Next Frontier in User Interfaces

I recently wrote about earbuds of the future, an embodiment of the upcoming stage in User Interfaces: speech-driven technology.

But what happens after that, when voice recognition technology has matured and “mobile assistants” that understand your every word are yesterday’s news? What’s the next User Interface, the ultimate link between man and machine?

The Thought Interface. Some of this may sound crazy. But it’s closer than you think. Google, Amazon and Facebook would agree with me.

What Is a Thought Interface?

The technology I’m envisioning would be an offshoot of today’s “Brain Computer Interface technology (BCI)”, but that’s such an unwieldy phrase. “Thought Interface” is better for everyday speaking. So I’m calling it that. And you should, too.

It’s a type of User Interface, a means of controlling electronic devices around you, by thought alone. At its initial release into the world market, thought interface technology may only be capable of responding to words that you “read” with your mind’s voice. But eventually it will be able to understand your thoughts in real-time, literally as your brain creates them.

How would your Thought Interface calibrate itself out of the box? Probably with a speech-driven, guided questionnaire, that could take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes to complete. It might prompt you with instructions designed to differentiate between your varied thought patterns for certain basic words, like:

  • Read the word “that” with your mind’s voice.
  • Think of the concept of “that,” as if you were looking at “that” object.
  • Glance at an object across the room. Simultaneously, say in your mind’s voice, “That object is over there.”

The Thought Interface will record your brain patterns in high-resolution.

However, during the beginning stages of your ownership (perhaps the first few days), it will only be able to interpret your Thought Words at a “birds eye” level, with significant inaccuracy.

Your Thought Interface Will Be an Artificial Intelligence

The AI will adapt to your thoughts, the situations you encounter, the way you converse with people, your physiological indicators, and other high-bandwidth sources of streaming data. So, in the same way that a child gradually learns complex concepts based off of only a few building blocks of language (“mama,” “daddy,” “dog,” “food,” “no,” “sad,” etc.), so too will your AI learn how to interpret your thoughts into commands. It may take some time, but eventually you will be able to control electronic devices through your Thought Interface at your own incredible speed of thought.

Controlling electronics with your brain in real-time via a mobile interface is starting to happen, but with genuine Thought Interface technology you’ll be controlling more than just devices, actually.

This is where Thought Interface technology gets particularly intriguing.

Your thoughts will control your avatar inside a fully-realized 3D virtual reality. World of Warcraft will seem less sophisticated than Atari does today.

You think buying off of Amazon is convenient? Consider being able to “walk” your avatar into virtual designer stores around the world, without leaving the comfort of your couch. Damn cool. And kind of scary. I’m not the one to come up with this idea, actually. Check out one of my favorite books and a sci-fi classic, Snow Crash. Stephensen calls it the “Metaverse.”

Let’s get crazy up in here

Sending out thoughts via our Thought Interface is feasible. But what happens when technology perfects the brain-electronic interface so that we can receive data from our Thought Interface—receive data from other humans? Receive their thoughts?

Telepathy.

With telepathy, imagine the glorious ways humanity will transform.

  • Racism will truly begin to fade, because connectedness will bring empathy. I truly hope this happens within my lifetime, because I fundamentally reject the primitive thought processes that are responsible for racism.
     
  • You think you work on a “team” now? You think you “brainstorm?” Wait til you can merge your consciousness with those of your coworkers. Sounds weird, almost perverse. But actually, there is nothing perverse about connecting with others. The taboo will fade—although probably not without a fight from the Legacy Thinking that permeates the world today.
     
  • And what about when we start connecting other organisms—plants, dogs, wildlife—to our Thought Network? One consciousness. Gaia. The earth, and all life on it, will truly be a superorganism.

Ersan Seer

Ersan Seer is a futurist consultant, coolhunter, market researcher, strategic advisor, and concept artist. Ersan hungers to make the future world a more peaceful, survivable place.  → Read More & Book Ersan Seer

5 Responses to Thought Interfaces / Electronic Thought Are the Next Frontier in User Interfaces

  1. Alex says:

    Ersan,

    I have been researching, analyzing and considering the future for DNI (Direct Neural Interface) systems since the mid 90’s and have to say that much of what you suggest needs more thought. First of all, I think it’s an area that requires more discussion on a global level as DNI technology, or ‘Thought Interface’ as you have called it, also has the potential to radically alter the way we exist forever. It could even become the most subversive technology ever created! And for that reason alone, futurists like yourself should consider the longer term ramifications of your projections before attempting to ‘make them real’ by virtue of posting them online. Personally, I think it rather amateur to just come up with fanciful ideas about neural implants without looking at every angle of what it could mean to bring them into reality.

    1. What, for example, do you mean by ‘The AI will adapt to your thoughts’? What’s stopping the AI from interfering with your thoughts? Ie. ‘Crave more xyz product! Or, ‘Buy this now!’
    2. What if several people wanted to control the same electronic device, at the same time? What if someone wanted to control the flight path of a next generation UAV but not be anywhere near it?
    3. Man has always sought to control his environment and those things that exist within it. So what would stop us from controlling other organisms like plants, dogs, wildlife—to our Thought Network?
    4. If the ‘Thought Interface’ reaches the level of sophistication you describe, then what’s stopping it from receiving our thoughts and sending them to a ‘Thoughts Analyzer’ which, in turn, determines our ability to engage with anything?

    Guess where I’m going with this is that it’s easy to conjure up fictitious ideas about the future but few people ever take responsibility for generating them. What if you devised a technology that became real and made you obscenely rich but at the same time adversely affected the lives of everyone else on the planet?

    • Ersan Seer says:

      Alex, my articles do tend to be more visionary and less technical. There are a few reasons why I only share a fraction of what I think about. I hear you loud and clear about exercising caution, and I agree. In fact, my cautious attitude makes me a minority amongst futurists, who tend to be overly enthusiastic about the future (which is peculiar, considering the abundance of dystopian scifi stories in pop culture). Take a look at this: http://www.seer.ws/beware-the-myth-of-the-noble-researcher

  2. Alex says:

    Thanks Ersan. I’ve always believed that a true ‘creator’, whether it be of a fictional work or a technology, product or design, should take responsibility for their thinking and their creation. Here’s a most recent example of a ridiculous convenience product whose creator now regrets having brought it into existence. It exemplifies the notion of ‘think responsibly’. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/03/the-abominable-k-cup-coffee-pod-environment-problem/386501/

    • Ersan Seer says:

      I agree with you about taking responsibility for creations. By publicly musing on the future I am also designing it. But I also believe in striving towards pure authenticity, and in this case that means admitting to myself that I am not the sole creator of Thought Interfaces. In fact, I have only contributed the tiniest fraction compared to what other visionaries have already contributed to this topic, let alone what countless others will contribute as they bring Thought Interface technology to reality in the years to come. In other words, the trends driving us towards Thought Interfaces are so momentous that whether I write an ambiguous article on it will have little impact on the greater scheme of things. I do envision and notice other topics that are, as far as I can tell, close to uncharted territory. Those things… I’m very cautious about discussing publicly, for fear I might influence the future. But some I am okay with sharing and just haven’t gotten to. Like, I’m convinced dogs are evolving towards speech! Anyway, I’m okay with being a visionary. It also means something else, and that’s the definition we both know I meant.

  3. Alex says:

    PS. You might want to reassess describing yourself as a visionary: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/visionary

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