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?
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.