technology | July 31, 2019

What Are the Consequences of Facebook’s New Mind-Reading Technology? Nita Farahany Weighs In

Facebook has been funding research at the University of California to develop “speech decoding” technology with far-reaching effects. Neuro-ethicist Nita Farahany explains the potential it has to change our lives.  

A report published in Nature Communications details how researchers used electrodes— placed directly on the brains of their volunteers—to predict the answers to a series of questions. Facebook says the project, which is ongoing, will try to restore communication ability in people who are disabled or have suffered neurological trauma. Eventually, the goal is to design a headset that can control music or interact with virtual reality using only the thoughts of the wearer.


Nita Farahany, a professor at Duke University who specializes in bioethics, voiced her concerns to MIT Technology Review: “To me the brain is the one safe place for freedom of thought, of fantasies, and for dissent,” she explained.  “We’re getting close to crossing the final frontier of privacy in the absence of any protections whatsoever.”


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