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China Deploying Brain-Reading Tech to Monitor Emotions

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Chinese workers are reportedly being outfitted with brain-reading sensors designed to monitor their emotional state.

According to the South China Morning Post, Hangzhou Zhongheng Electric, which develops and supplies electrical products, is one of several companies deploying the technology.

“Concealed in regular safety helmets or uniform hats, these lightweight, wireless sensors constantly monitor the wearer’s brainwaves and stream the data to computers that use artificial intelligence algorithms to detect emotional spikes such as depression, anxiety or rage,” the Post reports.

Hangzhou’s State Grid Zhejiang Electric Power, another company which has issued the sensors to employees, even claims the technology has increased profits.

Cheng Jingzhou, who currently runs what the Post describes as the company’s “emotional surveillance programme,” says the company has seen revenue increases of 2 billion yuan ($315 million) since the sensors implementation in 2014.

“There is no doubt about its effect,” Cheng said.

Ningbo Shenyang Logistics, a company which reportedly uses the brain-reading tech while training employees, also claims to see positive effects, including a revenue boost of 140 million yuan ($22 million) over the past two years.

“It has significantly reduced the number of mistakes made by our workers,” Zhao said.

Jin Jia, associate professor of brain science and cognitive psychology at Ningbo University’s business school, says the technology’s rollout was initially met with “resistance.”

“They thought we could read their mind. This caused some discomfort and resistance in the beginning,” Jia said.

While little is known about the sensors, which are also reportedly being used in “factories, public transport, state-owned companies and the military,” MIT Technology Review recently contested the tool’s alleged effectiveness.

“Over-the-skin brain scanning through EEG is still very limited in what it can detect, and the relationship between those signals and human emotion is not yet clear,” the Technology Review said, adding that reported revenue increases were also “incredibly doubtful.”

News of the invasive tool follows headlines in late March detailing China’s use of facial recognition to identify and penalize jaywalkers.


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