By Katharine Schwab
By 2050, the dead will outnumber the living on Facebook. That’s a conservative estimate, according to a study published by researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute, which aimed to estimate just how many profiles on the platform will belong to people who have died, before the end of the century. Based on projections of Facebook’s number of users growing 13% every year, they calculate that by 2100, there could be more than 4.9 billion dead profiles on the platform.
For Carl Ohman, a graduate student at the Oxford Internet Institute who co-authored the study, the exactness of the numbers is besides the point—more importantly, we need to make decisions as a society, now, about how a private company should handle what will become an unprecedented compilation of human activity. Currently, Facebook says its memorialized profiles — what Facebook calls a dead user’s profile that has officially been converted into an interface for remembering his or her life — number in the hundreds of thousands.
Following his research into speech signal processing for DARPA’s RATS program, Dr. Nima Mesgarani of Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute and fellow researchers announce that a brain-computer interface (BCI) has been used to turn brainwave patterns into speech with the help of a speech synthesizer.
Over the last few decades, the unprecedented pace of technological progress has allowed us to upgrade and modernize much of our infrastructure and solve many long-standing logistical problems. For example, Babylon Health’s AI-driven smartphone app is helping assess and prioritize 1.2 million patients in North London, electronic transfers allow us to instantly send money nearly anywhere in the world, and, over the last 20 years, GPS has revolutionized how we navigate, how we track and ship goods, and how we regulate traffic.
However, exponential growth comes with its own set of hurdles that must be navigated. The foremost issue is that it’s exceedingly difficult to predict how various technologies will evolve. As a result, it becomes challenging to plan for the future and ensure that the necessary safety features are in place.