Why Facebook, Telepathy Don't Mix

Mark Zuckerberg thinks telepathy is the ultimate form of communication. Believe it or not, for certain things, Facebook is better than telepathy.

David Wagner, Executive Editor, Community & IT Life

July 3, 2015

4 Min Read
<p align="left">(Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/zionfiction/16604220029/in/photostream/" target="_blank">r nial bradshaw</a> via Flickr)</p>

9 Ways Technology Is Slowly Killing Us All

9 Ways Technology Is Slowly Killing Us All

9 Ways Technology Is Slowly Killing Us All (Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook chat this week that he believed the future of communication was telepathy. Presumably, he also meant that was the future of Facebook. No more status updates. No more walls. No more messenger. Not even pokes. Just broadcast your thoughts. Sounds cool, but in practice, what would that be like? It sounds like a potential nightmare to me.

To be clear, Zuckerberg didn't say Facebook was researching this. He didn't say it was just around the corner. He merely said, "One day, I believe we'll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You'll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too if you'd like. This would be the ultimate communication technology."

Hrm … here's the problem I see with this vision. I like my friends. I like to hear what they think. But I go to Facebook on my time, not my friends' time. Telepathy sounds … invasive.

Imagine you're at work trying to concentrate and a voice popped into your head and said, "I just got engaged!" Well good for your friend. You might even drop what you are doing at work and have a telepathic conversation. Who’s the lucky guy or gal? When's the wedding? Am I invited?

Sounds kind of fun when the news is big, right? Even if you were trying to work.

Now, multiply it. Imagine you are at work and you started hearing your news feed from Facebook in your ear. "Just had a great lunch." "I can't see how Hillary Clinton can lose the election this year." "Check out this picture of my baby." "Read this." "Read this." "Read this." It would be a nightmare. A constant barrage of thoughts. It would be like self-imposed ADHD. Heck, sometimes that is what it already feels like when you read Facebook.

Clearly, telepathic Facebook can't work that way. We'd all go insane.

You'd immediately "turn notifications off" and only check your telepathic posts on your own time. So then what happens? Well, basically, it would be like checking your messages on an answering machine. You'd hear the voices in your head one at a time reading their status updates. And here's the funny thing: It would actually be harder to prioritize them than it would be if you read them. When we read, we can scan for key words and phrases to cue that something is important. If we see a picture of lunch, we know it is a lunch selfie and move on. In our brains, we can't do that. We're processing it at the speed of the brain, which is close to the speed of light. We're stuck with all the static.

So now you'd ingest the contents of your news feed, all of it, good or bad, whether you like it or not, in one big, friend thought burst. Sounds pretty maddening, too.

[ Not only does telepathy sound bad, so does VR. Read Facebook VR: 10 Reason It Won't Work. ]

Strangely enough, Facebook might be closer to the ideal way of sharing Facebook-like information than telepathy. Telepathy, believe it or not, doesn't replace Facebook. It replaces the telephone.

Telepathy is a one-on-one or group communication strategy for having planned exchanges of information. Facebook is ad hoc. It is "get to this when you feel like it (or never)."

Try this on for size. In the future, there may be only two methods of communication: Facebook and telepathy. Telepathy takes care of the phone, speech, email, telegrams (do we still have telegrams?), mail, etc. All communication designed to convey information from point to point is perfect for telepathy. And then Facebook handles all information best sent in broadcast form.

Maybe that's not exactly how it goes down, but I bet even if Zuckerberg had a telepathy helmet in his possession today, in the end he'd see that it was more of a threat to AT&T than a way to change his own company.

About the Author(s)

David Wagner

Executive Editor, Community & IT Life

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, leadership, and innovation. He has also been a freelance writer for many top consulting firms and academics in the business and technology sectors. Born in Silver Spring, Md., he grew up doodling on the back of used punch cards from the data center his father ran for over 25 years. In his spare time, he loses golf balls (and occasionally puts one in a hole), posts too often on Facebook, and teaches his two kids to take the zombie apocalypse just a little too seriously. 

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