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Josh Owens

Josh Owens

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Josh majored in International Relations at the University of Edinburgh and is currently the Content Director at Oilprice.com. Josh has over 6 years of writing…

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China's Mind Reading Technology

Brain

China continues to roll out the dystopian society high-tech gear, with media now reporting that some companies are monitoring their employees’ brain waves in an emotional intelligence sweep, just days after the country’s eerie new Orwellian ‘Social Credit Score’ system flooded the media.

It’s not easy, after all, keeping tabs on 1.4 billion citizens and ensuring a way to tell the upstanding from the not-upstanding, all the while keeping them at their most productive.

This time we are talking about "emotional surveillance” technology, designed to monitor employee brain activity and emotions. And while it won’t replace Orwell’s ‘Thought Police’, it can tell your boss whether your operating at full capacity.  

How does it work? Quite simply, an employee shows up at work, puts on a cap of wireless sensors, and sits back and lets the boss man register his or her brain activity and mood swings—all of which is streamed to computers loaded with artificial intelligence that can recognize negative emotions ranging from depression and anxiety to rage. Based on your brain wave reading, you are assigned your daily task, or told to go home.

According to the South China Morning post, employees' brain waves are being monitored in some factories, state-owned enterprises and military across China since 2014 with the goal of increasing productivity and profit.

State Grid Zhejiang Electric Power in the southeast city of Hangzhou has reportedly recorded a profit increase by $315 million since it started using the technology four years ago. Related: Venezuela Offers Discount Crude For Crypto

Jin Jia, associate professor of brain science and cognitive psychology at Ningbo University's business school, said a highly emotional employee in a key post could affect an entire production line, not to mention the safety of other workers.  

“When the system issues a warning, the manager asks the worker to take a day off or move to a less critical post. Some jobs require high concentration. There is no room for a mistake,” she was quoted as saying.

According to the research team, this device and technology had been used in China's military operations, though scant details are available.

This technology is also used in medicine for monitoring a patient's emotions and preventing violent incidents.

Another type of sensor is used in the caps of trains drivers on the high-speed rail between Beijing and Shanghai. This sensor monitors drivers' brain activities, including fatigue and attention loss with an accuracy of more than 90 percent and can trigger an alarm if a driver falls asleep. China also lays claim to fame for being the first country to use the brain surveillance device in cockpits. We’d all like to know if a pilot is fit to fly: China does.

So how is it being received? Not that well, at first, but then acceptance reportedly set it. Related: Western Union Eyes China's $1 Trillion Fintech Market

“They [workers] thought we could read their mind. This caused some discomfort and resistance in the beginning,” said Jin Jia. “After a while they got used to the device. It looked and felt just like a safety helmet. They wore it all day at work.”

But it does add new meaning to the word ‘exploitation’—this time of the brain. The brains of the entire workforce can be exploited for profit, and no one will have the ability to rebel against its use, and still keep their jobs.

China is definitively turning into a deep surveillance state, that started with internet censorship and then evolved into much more—from a ‘social credit score’ system that will be mandatory in just two years, to massive data harvesting and brain monitoring. It’s sounds practical, but practical doesn’t mean private—a fact that makes no different in a state that largely lacks privacy laws altogether.

By Josh Owens for conil.me

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