This Fall pollsters Zogby International released the results of a survey that asked nearly 10,000 US adults the following question. "How likely would you be to implant a device into your brain that enabled you to use your mind to access the internet if it could be done safely?" 11% of respondents said they were very or somewhat likely to do so.

I've talked to a lot of people in the internet industry about this survey since then and have found an even higher percentage of people who say they are interested in a web enabled brain implant. Let's discuss this sooner rather than later, shall we?

  • "Privacy is an illusion" is today still hyperbole
  • It's common for web-boosters today to assure us that "privacy is an illusion" because you can't do anything online any more that isn't discoverable by search, etc. This is pure hyperbole. Privacy is one of the biggest drivers of some of the hottest social networks online, including to some degree Facebook.

    Fortunately, our thoughts remain our own. There is no guarantee of this once the hardware crosses a membrane, however. It's one thing to share our thoughts via collaboration tools and online self expression - but that needs to be done one thought at a time, in circumstances of our own choosing. Losing whatever degree of control over our own minds that we do have isn't something I feel the need to critique explicitly.

    Think about Facebook's misguided Beacon program - now think about your brain on Beacon. Bad idea.

  • We don't even have control over our own data online yet/
  • It's a hard fought struggle to retain meaningful control over or access to the data and information we create in existing web applications. There is no reason to believe that big vendors will be any more respectful of our brains than they are our browsers.

  • People complain about information overload already
  • Why is Lifehacker one of the top blogs on the internet? Beyond Gina Trapani's charming personality - it's because using the internet through a desktop computer is a real challenge as it is. Improved interfaces could make all the difference in the world - but let's try controlling the web through more extensive use of our hands before we try it directly with our minds.

  • Mobile is moving fast already
  • Want a handy, portable way to interact powerfully with the web? Get an iPhone - you don't need an implant.

  • Marge Piercy has some important things to say
  • Look past the glancing insults she shoots at the web in general and read this Noble acceptance speech. The world is an incredibly unjust place and one where we're losing touch with the parts of our culture that we interact with physically - like books. Want an immersive learning experience that engages your mind on multiple levels and your senses at the same time? Go watch a play.

  • The Boston Tea Party would have been much more difficult...
  • The time may come (some people believe it already has) for each of us to take responsibility to challenge the powers that be. We need a private place to hatch our plots. There aren't a lot of those kinds of places left. No matter what your political persuasion, you've probably got a story in your mind in which things get really, really bad. Ask yourself - if that story comes true, will you want the internet in your mind at that time? I don't think you will. Don't make a hardware decision today that you'll regret so seriously if force-quitting your software becomes imperative.

I hope this has been interesting, if not convincing. Feel free to argue if you feel so inclined - we may as well start debating the implant here and now. If Google isn't offering one for free (ad supported!) by the end of the decade, I will be surprised.