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Factories Use Sensors to Read Workers' Emotions

Could one inaccurate reading cost you your job?

Most days, you’re probably glad that your employer doesn’t know exactly what you’re thinking and feeling. Especially on a Monday, am I right???

In today’s ‘news of the weird’ we bring you a disturbing update from China about the ways in which some factories are supporting workplace well-being.

According to the South China Morning Post, more than a dozen factories have begun requiring that their employees don helmets that are embedded with wireless sensors in the brim. The sensing devices are meant to monitor the brainwaves of the factory workers, using artificial intelligence to identify “spikes and dips in emotional activity associated with panic, fatigue, sadness and other emotions.”

While your first instinct is to run far and fast, the companies behind the program says this approach is actually reducing safety incidents in high risk occupations – factories included, as well as in electrical work and for train conductors, where the technology can trigger an alarm if the device indicates its wearer might be dozing off.

But a report by Gizmodo warns that these do have other, less positive implications: currently they’re being used to ferret out employees who may be unfit for certain stressful tasks. When this occurs, companies have been asking the workers in question to take breaks, go home for the day – they’ve even been demoting them.

So what happens if brainwaves incorrectly flag a worker, resulting in a demotion or reassignment? Could workers be punished for brain scan readings independent of their performance history? Do you really want it to be recordable in your file every time you’re having a bad day? A professor of management psychology told the Morning Post that this looks a lot like brains being exploited for profit, and that, without laws regulating or limiting this kind of technology in China, companies are likely to focus more on the profitability component, leaving workers in a vulnerable position.

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