The music of mind-fracking


I have seen the future of music, and its name is ThinkEar.

A new audio gadget from, oddly enough, a Finnish oil company named Neste, ThinkEar is a set of “mind-controlled earphones” that will allow your brain to choose the songs you listen to without any input from your thumbs or other body parts. Let’s go to the press release:

The world is poised on the brink of a technological revolution; rapid progress in brain mapping technology means that the ability to control devices with our minds is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Neste’s ThinkEar earphones are a bold entertainment concept that offers thought-controlled personal audio.

If I had listened to Gary Numan instead of Gang of Four when I was growing up, I would have seen all this shit coming. I mean, the guy was already using an Amazon Echo in 1979:


Back to the press release:

Making full use of the latest developments in brain wearables, the earphone’s integrated 5 point EEG sensors are able to read your brainwaves while an integrated microcomputer translates them into interaction commands to navigate your audio content.

You know who had the nicest brain wearables? The Borg.


OK, so here’s where the press release reaches its climax:

Unlike other systems, the earphones are not tethered to any external device. [They] access your favorite cloud services directly.

Which means, of course, that the cloud services will also be able to access your brainwaves directly. (Interaction is not a one-way street.) And that’s where things get really cool — you might even say numanesque. Remember when I last wrote about the future of pop? It was a year ago when Google announced the shift of its Google Play Music service from the old paradigm of listener-selected music to the new paradigm of outsourced “activity-based” music. As Google explained:

At any moment in your day, Google Play Music has whatever you need music for — from working, to working out, to working it on the dance floor — and gives you curated radio stations to make whatever you’re doing better. Our team of music experts … crafts each station song by song so you don’t have to.

ThinkEar is the missing link in mind-free listening. With your ThinkEar EEG sensors in place, Google will be able to read your brainwaves, on a moment by moment basis, and serve up an engineered set of tunes perfectly geared to your mental state as well as your activity mode. Not only will you save enormous amounts of time that you would have wasted figuring out what songs you felt like listening to, but Google will be able to use its expertly crafted soundscapes to help keep your mental state within some optimal parameters.

Far-fetched? I don’t think so. It’s basically just Shazam in reverse. The music susses you.

The applications go well beyond music. Cloud services could, for instance, beam timely notifications or warnings to your ears based on what’s going on in your brain, either at the subconscious or the conscious level. Think of what Facebook could do with that kind of capability. And if Amazon melded ThinkEar with both Echo and Audible, it could automatically intervene in your thought processes by reading you inspiring passages from pertinent books, like, say, The Fountainhead.

Maybe it’s not so odd that an oil company would invent a set of mind-reading earbuds. Once the land is tapped out, the extraction industries are going to need a new target, and what could possibly be more lucrative than fracking the human brain?