China, which is known for its sophisticated surveillance program that fuels their social credit system, is also doing something that appears to be bringing the concept of the “Thought Police” from the book 1984 to life. It’s brain surveillance, and it’s taking place on a massive scale in Chinese workplaces and military settings. These projects are backed by the Chinese government.
The brain surveillance is done through a hat that workers wear, which look like regular conductor’s hats and construction or factory safety hats. These caps monitor people’s brainwaves, which then allows the employer to monitor emotions and mental activities, reported the South China Morning Post.
People’s brainwaves are sent to computers for analysis. Artificial intelligence algorithms can then detect a variety of emotions including depression, anxiety, and rage.
The technology is being used in factories, public transportation, government-owned companies, and the military. The idea is to “increase the competitiveness of [China’s] manufacturing industry and to maintain social stability.”
One example of the technology at work is at State Grid Zhejiang Electric Power, which attributes a $315 million profit boost thanks to the brain surveillance. It employs about 40,000 people.
High-speed train drivers also wear surveillance hats that monitor for signs of tiredness and loss of attention. Soon, Chinese plane pilots will also wear special hats with surveillance to make sure pilots are emotionally stable throughout a flight.
In addition to more profit, companies say the technology helps reduce mistakes. How? By pinpointing a “highly emotional” employee at key posts, managers are able to move people to different posts or to give them breaks as needed to maintain consistency.
Hospitals are also using the technology on patients to monitor their emotions. The end goal is to foresee violent outbursts. They also combine the brain surveillance with cameras and sensors that tell doctors when the patient is moving and records facial expressions.
Researchers believe this technology can be refined to allow people to use “mental keyboards” which are controlled by the mind.
Workers often don’t feel like they can fight back against surveillance measures because they fear they’ll lose their jobs. This has led to the infiltration and acceptance of brain surveillance as a routine and acceptable practice for many Chinese workers.
Although U.S. military and government companies are not known to do surveillance on employees’ brains right now, the technology is available worldwide.
As technology becomes increasingly sophisticated and encroaches people’s privacy, it becomes more important than ever for consumers and employees to define how important their privacy is to them, and what they are and are not willing to give up for the sake of a job or convenience.