Former Cambridge Analytica researcher Christopher Wylie testified before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, as they seek answers into how the London-based firm misused Facebook data during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In this March 29, 2018, file photo the logo for Facebook appears on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square. Many companies large and small are updating their privacy policies and service terms to comply with upcoming European Union rules governing data and privacy. In preparation for GDPR, Facebook in March updated its privacy controls in hopes of making them easier to find and understand. The last time I connected with a friend online, a funny thought occurred to me: it wasn't really a friend at all.
It's all I could think as I listened to Facebook's VP of Engineering Regina Dugan speak about skin and brain interfaces. Like the first time you encounter Dr. Frankenstein outside his lab, Dugan, who made her F8 developers conference debut on Wednesday, started off sounding reasonable enough, telling us that the choice between paying attention to the person in front of you and checking your smartphone was a false one. Yeah, I could get on board with that. There's important stuff on my pocket device, a world of information, social media, and breaking news that I shouldn't have to miss, just because there's someone in front of me craving my attention. But then Dugan slipped on her lab coat, grabbed a burning torch and invited us downstairs into her basement lab, figuratively, of course.
What if you could talk through your skin? What if you had a mouse you could control with your brain? These are just two of the mind-blowing questions Facebook's Regina Dugan posed to the audience at the company's F8 developer conference, and the vision she laid out was so ambitious you could almost feel the silent awe emanating from the F8 audience as spoke. Dugan, a former DARPA director and ex-Googler from the search giant's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group, delivered on Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer's earlier promise on day two of F8 to give us a peek at brain-computer interfaces. No, Facebook didn't unveil invasive brain plugs to link you to its growing virtual-reality metaverse, but the company did reveal some of its fascinating research that will serve as the underpinnings for computer interfaces of the future.
Pay attention to Silicon Valley long enough, and you'll become all too familiar with its pie-in-the-sky ideas and sweeping claims about the future. Rarely do the technology world's most incredible concepts become actual world-changing products (we're looking at you, flying cars). But if you ask Regina Dugan, Facebook's vice president of engineering and head of its secretive Building 8, the future is full of revolutionary technologies that will enable us to communicate without typing keys, tapping screens, or even talking. Dressed in a dark Steve Jobs-like turtleneck, Dugan announced Wednesday that Facebook has a team of 60 people working on a computer interface powered by the human brain. The system would be capable of "typing" 100 words per minute by decoding users' neural activity, which is five times faster than we're able to type on smartphones.