Brain control
Openwater believes telepathy is possible within the next 10 years iStock

When a teacher asks her children to put their thinking caps on in the middle of the next decade, it could mean far more than merely encouraging them to be creative.

This, around the 2025 mark, is when a former Facebook executive believes telepathy, communicating via thoughts transmitted through a simple woolly hat, could become a reality.

Mary Lou Jepsen, who was formerly an engineering executive at Facebook's Oculus virtual reality division, and worked at Google and Intel before that, wants to make telepathy a reality through her startup company, Openwater.

Although she doesn't have a working prototype yet, Jepsen believes a lightweight ski hat could house a scaled-down MRI machine, normally used in hospitals and the size of an entire room. The hardware would track the flow of oxygen through the wearer's body, illuminating it with benign, infrared light and acting like a literal "thinking cap".

While telepathy is the ultimate goal, Jepsen's plans for now are focused on using the hat to read a person's thoughts. "If I threw you into an MRI machine right now... I can tell you what words you're about to say, what images are in your head. I can tell you what music you're thinking of," she told CNBC. "That's today, and I'm talking about just shrinking it down."

But the company's future is about sharing thoughts without speaking or typing. "The really big moonshot idea here is communication with thought," Jepsen says. "Right now our output is basically moving our jaws and our tongues or typing [with] our fingers. We're... limited to this very low output rate from our brains, and what if we could up that through telepathy?"

As for a time span, Jepsen says: "I don't think this is going to take decades. I think we're talking about less than a decade, maybe eight years until telepathy."

Openwater telepathic hat concept
Openwater believes a scaled-down MRI machine can be fitted to a lightweight woolly hat Openwater

This approach is similar to that of Elon Musk, the billionaire boss of electric car company Tesla and rocket manufacturer SpaceX.

Through his new company Neuralink, launched in 2016, Musk wants to dramatically speed up humanity's output speed; input (through the eyes and ears) is very fast, but output (through fingers and mouths) is far slower, Musk also reasons.

But where Musk plans to create real-life cyborgs by asking participants to take injections of nanoparticles pulsing through their bloodstream, Jepsen is taking a non-invasive approach.

Ethics will play a big part in our telepathic future - if indeed the technology ever becomes a reality in the way Jepsen and Musk hope it will. Jepsen says: "We have to answer these questions, so we're trying to make the hat only work if the individual wants it to work, and then filtering out parts that the person wearing it doesn't feel it's appropriate to share."

In Jepsen's absence, Facebook is hiring neuroscientists to help build brain-computer interfaces of its own, following founder Mark Zuckeberg's desire to develop means for telepathy.