Emotion Hacking

All too often, technologies that provide unprecedented capacity for good bring about equally unprecedented capacity for abuse and manipulation. This will be especially true for a networked commons of emotion.

To start, bullies or criminals may gain unwelcome access to their victims’ private emotional information to exploit their weaknesses, and even take over machines to inflict physical or emotional pain.





The potential for manipulation doesn’t just exist among rogue criminal hackers. Corrupt or aggressive state actors may mobilize resources at even greater scale to conduct surveillance, drum up political support, or initiate emotional warfare.



To counter these effects, we will explore new means of storing sensitive personal information and providing permissioned access to trusted entities.



In the face of these threats, we may need to come together across borders to agree on unacceptable forms of manipulation and hacking. This is not without precedent; the Geneva Protocols banned chemical and biological weapon use back in the 1920s. A similar approach may be difficult in an anonymized digital world, but this could form the basis of standards for international intervention once attacks are discovered. IFTF has explored similar potential in a Magna Cortica: an international or national document stating rights and responsibilities of cognitive enhancement.

Hacking isn’t always bad, though. We may see innovation around these products and systems as people use or break them in unexpected ways. New artistic pieces, health-boosting applications, and novel social networks could emerge from permission-less grassroots efforts.

How might we protect ourselves from attacks while maximizing ethical and positive development?

Crossing the Animal Semiosphere

Humans aren’t the only beings that will connect through global empathy networks. Soon, we will understand the way pets and other animals feel as we interact with them through our daily lives.

There are already experiments underway to translate animal thoughts to human-recognizable statements. The Wild Dolphin Project aims to study visual and auditory signals from dolphins to understand their thoughts and social patterns, moving toward a two-way animal to human communication link for simple objects and needs. No More Woof is bringing this capacity to the consumer pet market, creating a neural activity-reading headset for dogs. Even without advanced technology, people are sharing their pet interactions together to crowdsource insights about play, as Barnard College’s Dog Cognition Lab has done.

IFTF’s Age of Networked Matter map explores human-animal communications within the context of Internet of Things devices. The map describes a process of “crossing the semiosphere”, whereby multiple species develop a common language between them mediated by digital technology. This could allow an entire inter-species Internet, sharing experiences and emotions in real-time.


A pet could share its excitement at the sight of its owner’s return with members of its species and beyond. Or, it could allow an owner to feel when their attention is needed, nudging them to return home and provide care.



We may come to understand not just animal needs, but also animal curiosity and desire. This could lend itself to an entire new economy of animal entertainment services and media.



Activists could sense animal suffering and direct their efforts to combat abuse where they are most needed.


It may even change animals to exhibit human tendencies themselves.



Social networks may emerge for sharing memorable moments between connected beings, even tying emotions to point-of-view footage from an animal’s perspective.

Perhaps we will even see a forecasting game like Face the Future open to all species!


Over time, these shifts will help us come closer to fundamentally understanding what it means to exist and thrive as a life form on this planet, human or otherwise.