The future is dark, kids. As every day seems to become more like an 80's sci-fi novel than any of us are comfortable admitting, we tell ourselves that it can't just keep getting weirder and darker forever, right? Oh, you bet your cybernetic butt that this world can—and will—keep on truckin' all the way to a gross and nightmarish amalgamation of every dystopia any nerd ever imagined. Now you might be asking what in the world could cause someone to write a sentence like that? Good question, I'm glad you asked. Everyone's favorite software giant Microsoft just patented a technology that would use your brain waves and other bodily functions as "proof-of-work" in cryptocurrency mining, collecting data that proves you did some task on behalf of a company—like browse Facebook, watch a video, or engage with an advertisement—and rewarding you with cryptocurrency for your complicity in the final death of the human spirit.
Again, is this overdramatic? Let's hope so. But here are some words right from the recently filed patent:
Some exemplary embodiments of the present disclosure may use human body activity associated with a task provided to a user as a solution to "mining" challenges in cryptocurrency systems. For example, a brain wave or body heat emitted from the user when the user performs the task provided by an information or service provider, such as viewing advertisement or using certain internet services, can be used in the mining process. Instead of massive computation work required by some conventional cryptocurrency systems, data generated based on the body activity of the user can be a proof-of-work, and therefore, a user can solve the computationally difficult problem unconsciously.
So, would this just be a goofy looking headband that you put on from time to time when you're broke and need some quick-and-dirty brain bucks? Well, it's probably a bit more complex than that. The patent doesn't specify exactly what the device is. PCMag speculates that it's either wearable or—you knew it was coming—implanted. But the patent doesn't mention that. What it does mention are all the other bodily processes besides brain-waves that it can monitor:
The body activity may include, for example, but not limited to, radiation emitted from human body, brain activities, body fluid flow (e.g. blood flow), organ activity or movement, body movement, and any other activities that can be sensed and represented by images, waves, signals, texts, numbers, degrees, or any other form of information or data. Examples of body radiation emitted from human body may include radiant heat of the body, pulse rate, or brain wave.
It sounds more like a wearable device than an implanted one, but who knows? Microsoft hasn't commented on this patent yet so all we're left with is wild and terrifying speculation. We also don't know if it will ever actually see the light of day. Tons of weird things are patented all the time that never come to fruition. But, of course, that might be another of those comforting lies we tell ourselves when the going gets weird. If you'll excuse me, I have a log cabin to build somewhere very, very far away.