Why Facebook, Telepathy Don't Mix - InformationWeek

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7/3/2015
10:06 AM
David Wagner
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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.

9 Ways Technology Is Slowly Killing Us All
9 Ways Technology Is Slowly Killing Us All
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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.

(Image: r nial bradshaw via Flickr)

(Image: r nial bradshaw via Flickr)

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.

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, ... View Full Bio
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Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
7/4/2015 | 1:41:06 PM
Re: Is Zuckerberg a "Thought Leader"?

@jastroff    Well said and I completely agree.  But I must add that the Zuckster should be carefull not to get too far out over his skiis.    And not to drink his own Kool-Aid though I am sure he does not drink Kool-Aid.      

I admire and respect what he has achieved thus far but I don't see him as a thought leader by any means.

jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
7/4/2015 | 1:20:27 PM
Is Zuckerberg a "Thought Leader"?
Thought leaders, as odd as that phrase sounds, are people who think further out ahead than most others about the course and implications of technology in business, society, etc. Thought leaders are in every field or span many fields, including healthcare, etc. Some people are major thought leaders, like Jeffrey Sachs, head of the Earth Institute at Columbia who talks about climate change and other things, or Tim Berners-Lee who developed the WWW.

If your company has a CIO or CTO who is a thought leader you get very good technology and business strategy. 

Is Zuckerberg a thought leader? He's a very talented technologist and good enough businessman. Perhaps we have to wait and see what his "Act 2" is – what is he going to do after Facebook, and apart from Facebook, and I include "wiring the world" as not a part of a meaningful Act 2. It's too grand to work well and it's been tried before.

As for telepathy, he sees some kind of implant to help us "send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology."

Sounds more like a Mr. Spock moment than a real executable thought for the future.

Teleportation would be more impressive. Now THAT "would be the ultimate communication technology."

 
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
7/4/2015 | 1:00:34 PM
Re: Telepathy would be better
@Phil C -- you make some very good points re: Facebook bugs and functions. Yes, by now it should be fixed and working more than fine. AOL had long ironed out its problems a few yeares after it appeared. (doesn't mean I liked AOL, but it worked)

Does anyone have any intel about the Enterprise Facebook adoption? How's that going? And can we assume it it works better than free, ad-driven FB?
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
7/4/2015 | 12:41:39 AM
Re: Find good fit

Telepathy ?    Sounds like the Zuckster has too much time and money on his hands.

danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
7/3/2015 | 9:20:33 PM
Re: Find good fit
I definitely would want to turn the notifications off on this one. But I find the idea intriguing. Facebook is invested heavily in VR with Oculus, and I would assume the company will gather a lot of information on brain function from VR.

Will telepathy be a product for Facebook as a result? I wouldn't count it out. 
Phil C.
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Phil C.,
User Rank: Strategist
7/3/2015 | 11:23:18 AM
Telepathy would be better
Considering that the Facebook plugin doesn't work properly on more than half the sites that use it, telepathy would probably be better.  It's so bad, I've pretty much stopped commenting on sites that use Facebook.  You can leave a comment, it appears to have posted, then log out of Facebook and reload the page and the comment doesn't show; or, you can try to post a comment, but when you hit the Enter key to submit it, nothing happens.  Others have complained that they can leave a comment, but they can't share it with their Facebook friends.  Give me Disqus or LiveFyre, but if you use Facebook, I'll just move along to a different site.

Facebook has been around long enough and has enough financial resources that such technical problems should have been worked out years ago.  The fact that the problems persist year after year tells me it is junk software, like Macromedia Flash, which became Adobe Flash, the latter still being buggy and a security risk after 20 years of tinkering.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
7/3/2015 | 10:39:35 AM
Find good fit
The important thing here is finding a suitable communication method. For example, e-mail is considered to be not very efficent in communication. But we use email quite often. It has its unique advantage: you can read through and think over before pressing the "Send" button, it's good for documentation, etc. So the key point here is finding a suitable communication method, not always the new one.
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