Opt-in Telepathy

August 6, 2010

It’s definitely cliché to say that the Internet has changed everything, but it’s still fascinating to think about how these changes manifest themselves in the real world and are driving different behaviors and changing personal relationships.

For example, the gradual improvements in communication technology have given us real-time access to the intentionally (and sometimes unintentionally) shared life experiences of others via text, audio, still image and video. Since this data can now be unobtrusively produced and consumed on mobile devices, I would argue that this means humans can now choose to have a form of psychic ability – call it opt-in telepathy.

In the recent past, there were basically three ways people could communicate with each other: face-to-face, physical mail or land-line phone calls. The opportunity for each interaction was short and often required planning. So, except for the brief time that people spent together or recounting their day, most of peoples’ lives were essentially hidden from each other.

Today, someone sitting in a beautiful Manhattan rooftop bar at sunset can post a quick pictures to Facebook/Twitter or check-in on Foursquare to share that experience. This is glorified a example, but people constantly share that they are bored with work, eating breakfast or watching a movie.

From thousands of miles away, it is possible to know exactly where your friends are, what they are doing/seeing and even what they are thinking in real time. Following someone’s Twitter, Facebook and/or Foursquare literally gives you the ability to acquire information that, in the recent past, would be the topic of science fiction novels.

Choosing to give others this potentially omniscient view of our lives has to dramatically change our relationships. If people could maintain life long friendships at a distance with letters which summarized months of experiences and thoughts, imagine how much closer we are to each other with this opt-in telepathy.

Our knowledge of people’s thoughts, feelings and actions do so much to shape our perspectives of them, and this new level of connectedness may give us more context to help us understand why someone might feel or act the way they do. And while we don’t care to know that much about everyone in our lives, this level of knowledge may be appropriate and desirable for some special people.

I personally feel closer to friends when I know that they are eating at a restaurant that I’ve been to or read an article which they also read 10 minutes ago and then shared. However, this also affects other types of relationships (e.g. romatinc, professional, family, etc…) in a variety of ways. In later posts I will look a little closer at some of these relationships and compare some potential changes in them.

Regardless, it will be very interesting to see where this goes in the long term, especially as connectivity and mobile platforms improve to the point where sharing our lives is as simple as the science fiction version of telepathy…. Given some of the new cheap and non-invasive brain scanning technologies being combined with machine learning algorithms, we may be closer to this brave new world than you think. Check out this TED talk and see what I mean:

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Liz BEard September 6, 2010 at 8:47 pm


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