As regular readers here may have noted, in the past few days I've been following a variety of topics, mostly to do with education, but a few concerning the Lunacy Index (which is my little measure of the insanity of the political left in this country, which is to be distinguished from the Hysteria Index, which is my measure of the pathology of the political right in this country. You'll note that because our two party system is really a one party system of the hard left, and the soft left, that oftentimes these indices overlap.) This article was shared by Mr. V.T., and I am blogging about it simple because it uniquely ties together all the themes I've been blogging about the past few days - quackademia, the surveillance state, the Lunacy Index - in one tidy Gorgon's knot of insanity:
Now I have no difficulty believing that MIT (or anyone else) would be developing technologies for the remote sensing of an individual's emotional state. In fact, if anything, my problem with this article is the implication that this technology is so underdeveloped as to be a kind of "remote polygraph", a way of reading physiological changes remotely that goes little behind simply noting them, and guessing what the individual's state of mind might be. I would argue (a task for another day, alas) that the technologies have already far exceeded these rudimentary capabilities, and have indeed blogged in the past about them. They exist. They are real.
And they are unbelievably frightening in their potential.
It's that mention of potential that intrigued me, more than any specific technological claims, about this article, for they see some of the potential. This first paragraph here says it all:
Imagine a world where you no longer need to communicate directly with an individual to understand their emotions. Instead, you would just consult with your personal wireless EQ-Radio to get a readout of their emotions, measured by their heartbeat and breathing patterns. Or imagine a world where the government, corporations, Facebook, Google, and other conglomerations can all know your emotions because you own a smartphone equipped with an EQ radio device.
But now note some other interesting things, specifically, the "corporation-academia" link, and the potentials to which this new technology can be (ab)used:
Interestingly enough there is plenty of Big Business involved. Dina Katabi envisions the system being used in entertainment, consumer behavior, and health care. Film studios and advertisers could test viewers’ reactions in real-time, while smart homes could use information about your mood to adjust the heating or suggest that you get some fresh air.
Advertisement companies can creep on a whole new level. Imagine shopping at your local grocery store, and that grocery store has an EQ radio equipped in every aisle. Say you frequent this particular grocery store once a week. Now, the grocery store houses ads within each aisle for sales that are ongoing throughout the store. If those ads are digital, and the EQ device read your emotions, based on your emotional state; the grocery store could fill that advertisement space with products in which you are most likely to buy based on your previous purchasing habits while in that particular emotional state.
Tracking, recording, targeting, and triggering all of which advertisement companies use to infiltrate your mind and influence a decision which would “make” you buy their products. This is one example of how advertisers could use this technology to better their marketing and targeting.
However, if the government were to get their hands on such technology, here comes the thought police. Based on your previously recorded actions, within a particular emotional state; the EQ device could read your emotions and tell when you are likely to ‘strike’ next. Meaning that the government could unlawfully act on the grounds of thought policing.
The issue of privacy and "thought policing" is at the core here, and I am bold to suggest that it is at the core of the dangers of Common Core. Manifestly, most western universities, especially those of technological focus like MIT, can hardly be considered to be bastions of academic freedom and inquiry if in turn they are pursuing technological development to expand the surveillance state. Couple such technologies - and again, I maintain the position that they are much more fully developed than simply the ability to read generalized emotional states, but actual specific ones and even specific thoughts, or, alternatively, to inject them remotely - with an agenda like Common Core and its individually adaptive computerized tests, and you get the idea: the technology will be used to map an individual's emotional and mental state, and could be used to inject and manipulate those states and thoughts.
Corporations are banking on the fact that entering such a "store" or marketplace with such technologies is a kind of "adhesion contract", with the individual consenting, by entering the store, to have her thoughts and emotions tracked and monitored. The solution to such invasiveness? States need to enact legislation - and enact them now - that entry or purchase at a store does not constitute adherence to any contract, implied or otherwise, to allow a corporation to monitor that individual's emotional or mental state. In other words, we need to update the maxim "no taxation without representation" to the maxim "No personal data mining without explicit, written, personal, authorized consent." In this respect, I repeatedly refuse, at my local supermarket, offers to have their "rewards" card. Monitoring purchases for the sake of inventory control and planning is one thing; monitoring an individual's thoughts and emotions, quite another. Of course we can assume what the reaction of the national levels of the Dummycrook and Republithug National Soviets will be to this proposal: silence.
The other alternative, and I suspect that it is one coming, if not soon then at least eventually, will be when smart businessmen and businesswomen capitalize on the growing unease against the invasion of their privacy by quackademia and megacorporations. Imagine your local supermarket or favorite restaurant advertizing "No data mining here, cash welcome," and you get the idea. Would you eat or shop at such a business?
...Precisely. It's your answer that has them worried.
See you on the flip side...