“I was thinking of ordering some Japanese food, and when I opened my phone it suggested a sushi video. Does the phone read my thoughts?” Such experiences are becoming more and more common. This has happened to me several times. A few days ago, at lunchtime, my father suggested a video with a lecture on how smartphones of the future would be able to read our thoughts by translating a great idea. He stated that the video cited physicist Michio Kaku. I asked him how he got to this content. The answer was: “I don’t know. The proposal just popped up for me. It’s strange because I don’t research these topics.” The details are that, on the same day, in the morning, I did a live broadcast on the subject, citing Michio Kaku as the exact reference. My father was listening to my lecture. Somehow, his device picked up the name you mentioned in the live stream and suggested a video based on it. How could that be possible? What repercussions could such a technology have, both in terms of marketing and military terminology? Worrying, isn’t it?
Today, what we know with a greater degree of certainty is that it has become almost impossible to interact with any type of technology and not be tracked. Our phones constantly report our location, not only to the service provider, but also to a host of other apps installed on our devices. They know where we are in real time. Turning off tracking does not solve much, as this procedure will not be valid for all programs running on our devices. They know, for example, when we are close to our favorite dinner. That is why, at that moment, they are showing ads about exactly this restaurant. We have the habit of always repeating the same route, so that the system knows not only the daily route, but also the times we travel there.
The great thing is that we train our devices on a daily basis to fully recognize us, giving apps the ability to provide us with the goods and services we need, and more, predict our behavior, and pass through our data. Daily routine, location, schedules and preferences. All of this sometimes creates a false sense that devices are reading our thoughts. However, there are more unusual cases that are difficult to explain.
Let’s start with the easiest. I offer another personal experience. Some time ago, I was having dinner with friends and we talked about the fights between Brazilian and Hawaiian surfers (OBS: I’m a surfer, I was even a sponsored competitor). When I went to sleep, I took out my cell phone to check the latest news, and to my surprise, the app suggested a video with reports of fights between Brazilian surfers and Hawaiians. I didn’t search for this topic in my browser, but I just talked about it. Did the device listen to my conversation, select the topic, and point to a relevant video? Everything seems to indicate yes. This is nothing new.
In an interesting article, published on the website of an important antivirus company, we have confirmation that cell phones are indeed listening to our conversations, and with our consent. Remember that we generally do not read the terms listed about device activity. But it’s all there. you agreed. So, in theory, there is no legitimacy in practice. The justification of companies is that by listening to what we say, they are able to provide us with more efficient services, adapted to our personal taste, as well as always attentive to requests, which can be requested, at any time, from default. Assistants, such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.
Of course, you can turn off virtual assistants and not allow various applications to access the device’s microphone. However, the only way to ensure that you are not heard or seen is to put some masking tape on the phone’s camera and microphone. Some even go so far as to unlock the phone and disconnect the wires connecting the microphone. In this case, to make calls, they need to connect an external microphone.
Now things are getting weirder and weirder. Let’s say you are using a computer for the first time. outside your house, so he can’t locate your house and know you’re there. You are never logged into any of their services such as emails or social networks. However, after a few minutes of browsing, you start seeing those same ads that always appear on your personal phone. How can that be possible? Some experts explain that some advertisers keep track of more than 150 “data points” on any given computer. In general, any fact or information is a data point as far as information gathering is concerned. The Oxford language, for example, defines a ‘data point’ as ‘a recognizable element in a data set’. As such, some of the most advanced advertising services need just 15 of these data points to set you apart from everyone else in the world. See how far we’ve come.
However, there are more “mysterious” cases. A person thinks about a topic, and then immediately receives an advertisement about exactly that topic. Know that it is something that is not searched for in the browser, spoken to by anyone, or even photographed by the device. How do we explain this? Some justify these cases with the “illusion of frequency,” also known as the “Bader-Meinhof phenomenon”: you’re already receiving suggestions about something on your cell phone and thinking about it, but at some point, you think the “idea” was originally her, Then it was ‘mysteriously captured’ by the device. It’s a good explanation, but it’s not able to account for all the reported events.
In the discussion forums on the Internet, a young man mentioned that he had finished watching the fourth season of the series “Lucifer”. The next day, he was wondering if there would be a season 5. So he opened up Google and wrote “Will there be” and the first search suggestion was “Will there be a season 5 of Lucifer?”. strange don’t you think? Perhaps he was wondering if there was anything else. How did the app know it was exactly what it was looking for at that exact moment? There were similar questions on another forum. A man was talking to his pregnant wife, craving delicious macaroni and cheese. They talked about it in the car. So the wife picked up the phone and thought searching the internet for the best macaroni and cheese in Denver. When I typed the word “best,” my first search suggestion was “best macaroni and cheese in Denver.” In this second case, she verbally commented on her husband and the device may have listened to her. But about the first version, the young man just thought. Since he was alone, he did not speak to anyone, nor did he think out loud. Has your cell phone read your mind? How do we explain this?
In an article I recently published here, I explained that the techniques that allow brain waves to be translated into text and sentences are already outdated. I commented on researchers at the University of Oregon who, in 2016, developed a machine capable of not only reading thoughts, but also displaying images of them. In 2019, scientists at the University of California were able to turn thoughts into sounds. Last year, members of the Caltech Institute developed an ultrasound device that could read a person’s mind and, however, “predict” their situations. On that occasion, she commented, “Have you ever imagined this kind of technology in the hands of power-hungry leaders? The military and geopolitical applications of such actions are limitless. It would be the dream of every tyrant and the nightmare of every vigilant citizen.” It’s a scary fact. But will this technology actually be available for smartphones, even without the use of electrodes and ultrasound machines?
A 2020 article from the Wall Street Journal brought in an interesting reflection. See the headline: “Phones that can read your thoughts. Targeted ads can show you soon what you really want before you even know you want it.” The article discusses the topic as a future possibility. But it was posted two years ago. Will there be enough time? I just do not know. Maybe know the Silicon Valley tycoons. In the meantime, I still find the suggestions my cell phone gives me very strange, sometimes about things I just thought of. This is very disturbing, because our brain is, after all, the only place where we can say that we have complete security and complete privacy. Or perhaps I should say: Our brain was once the last place…