Predictions of the Week

Future Forecast: Mark Zuckerberg predicts we’ll be reading minds soon

Elena Scotti/FUSION

Welcome to Future Forecast, where every Friday, Real Future rounds up our favorite mildly plausible predictions for the future.

In a future not so far away, or at least the future according to Facebook executives, we will stop reading and writing and instead just communicate all of our thoughts and feelings telepathically. This, we imagine, could make certain moments in life fairly awkward: going on first dates, assessing whether your friend’s outfit is cute, and telling your boss you’re “sick.” Here is that prediction along with four others we found entertaining (if not entirely plausible) this week:

1. In five years, you won’t be writing or reading anymore

Sorry Shakespeare, but the written word is out. Nicola Mendelsohn, who runs Facebook’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told a London conference that in five years time, Facebook will be “probably all video.” Eventually, she suggested that the written word will become all but obsolete. (As it turns out, a lot of people have already stopped reading much more than headlines anyway.)

“The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video,” she said. “It conveys so much more information in a much quicker period.”

Maybe ’80s style video dating will finally make a comeback.

2. We will all have chips in our brains

For now, most mergers of man and machine mostly fall into either the category of “weird art project” or “highly experimental science.” Not for long, according to a report from Australian business software company MYOB.

“Today we have wearables and in the future we will have embeddables—similar kinds of devices, but instead of sitting around your wrist or ankle or somewhere, they’ll be sitting under your skin and that will give them a lot more power,” MYOB’s chief technical officer told Australia’s ABC News. “You go to your phone today, and you go ‘ok what can I add to my phone that will give me some functionality?’ You’ll be able to do that for your brain.”

As usual, Keanu is a tech prophet.

3. You will also be able to read minds

After all of our communication moves into 360 video, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during a live Q&A that the next step in communications will basically be telepathy.

“At the end of the line, past VR, is a world where more than just being able to capture what’s going on in a scene, I think you’re going to be able to capture a thought,” Zuckerberg said. “What you’re thinking or feeling, in its kind of ideal and perfect form in your head and be able to share that with the world in a format where they can get that.”

Zuckerberg admits that this future is probably pretty far off, since it’s “just straight out of the Matrix, right?” The bright side: if Facebook can read our thoughts, maybe they can cool it with all the creepy location tracking.

4. We will turn to social media tea leaves to read the future

Already our search histories are being put to use to predict things like flu trends (albeit with mixed results). In social media, some analysts tell BBC scientist Marcus du Sautoy, there may be an even more prescient crystal ball. The global population sends out more than 300 million tweets and shares 4.75 billion pieces of content on Facebook each day. Embedded in that information, analysts believe, are details that could help predict things like which Hollywood blockbuster will top the charts. This is a future actor Leonardo DiCaprio apparently believes in, since he just sunk some cash into the terribly-named “cultural recommendations” start-up Qloo.

5. The future of privacy will involve lots of math

Corporate thirst for all that “delicious data” collected from smartphones isn’t going away anytime soon. But according to Apple VP of software engineering Craig Federighi, panning for consumer information gold is about to get a lot more privacy-minded. This will be possible, Federighi said this week at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference thanks to something called “differential privacy.” Using statistics, mathematicians can create ways of gleaning lots of information about a group of people without collecting very much about a specific individual. (For a good explanation of how it works, see Andy Greenberg in Wired.) With lots of fancy math, in other words, those data-hungry corporate beasts will be able to collect lots of data about you, without actually collecting data about you.