Sunday, November 2, 2014

“One thing is for sure: politics is in for a major overhaul.”

“One thing is for sure: politics is in for a major overhaul.”  Gary Shapiro is president of the Consumer Electronics Association.  He notes that software for smartphones is becoming available that can analyze emotions from images of faces, and can determine from the sound of a voice whether someone is telling the truth or is lying.  Then he ponders the implications of such technologies, particularly if they get better than they are today.

To anyone who reads science fiction, this will seem like old territory.  Sci-fi authors have been pondering questions like this for about 80 years now.  I'm going to guess that Gary Shapiro does not read science fiction, or this wouldn't all seem like new territory to him :)

Something he doesn't mention at all, though, is much more concerning to me.  That is the fact that this software will be wrong very often – maybe even most of the time.  Imagine an app that listens to someone you're talking to on the phone, and tells you whether they're telling the truth.  If your caller says “I’d love to go to dinner with you!” and the app says they're lying – but they're actually telling the truth – that's going to be a problem.  Or, if your caller says “That’s too expensive for me!” and the app says they're telling the truth – but they're actually lying – that's also going to be a problem.  And those apps will make these sorts of errors, because assessing emotional state or verity is not an exact science.  Like “lie detectors”, there's not really solid evidence that these things work outside of carefully controlled (and possibly carefully constructed) test scenarios.  The current state of the art here isn't much different than a Ouija board – which means that about half of Americans will believe they're infallible. 

This I find very worrisome...

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