Articles

Human slaves…in a robot world

In Health industry on July 10, 2009 by Danielle Tagged: , , , ,

I was reading a very interesting article in the New Scientist about, er, robots, that can detect our emotions. Or ‘machines’, if you prefer (I noticed that the title had been changed to ‘robots’ from ‘machines’, perhaps in a bid to raise eyebrows).

Yes, robots are fun and so are machines, but where is the health connection, you ask. Machines can distinguish between the 6 ‘basic emotions’, fear, disgust, surprise, anger, happiness and sadness, but only if an exaggerated expression is presented to them. (Digression: reading about basic emotions or universal expressions always makes me a little skeptical as different people have different ways of expressing themselves-you’ll find lots of exaggerated smiles in North America, but comparatively few in the UK).

My favourite part: machines have gotten quite skilled at differentiating between real and fake pain in humans.  One study by Littlewort et al saw computers correctly classify pain 88% of the time. Human volunteers got it right 50% of the time-perhaps they were guessing. Will this technology have ramifications for reducing numbers of benefits fraudsters and pill-poppers as well as people trying to separate pain into organic or psychosomatic causes? Oh, and teaching autistic children to correctly identify facial expressions?

I hope so. Although it is easy to see the scarier side of technology like this. Who knows, maybe we’ll all be forced to adopt poker faces in the future to avoid ‘mood profiling’ and targeted advertising.

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