As the pandemic forced everyone indoors and a record number of people took up working from home, some employers turned to alternative methods to ensure they got exactly what they expect from workers. Some installed “spyware” on company computers, tracking users and identifying what they’re spending time on. Others even went as far as peering through webcams to track work ethic. If you think that is wild, it’s about to get far worse.
First reported by IEE Spectrum in an in-depth report, some companies are investing in startups that use brain scans and deep learning to keep employees “happy” and – most importantly – productive. Using electroencephalography (EEG) sensors and deep learning models, startup InnerEye believes their headsets can read signals from the brain and optimize “human performance”.
Neural sensors have now reached a level of affordability, allowing them to be used in practical applications such as this – which is part really cool (such sensors could change the lives of paralyzed people) and part dystopian nightmare.
EEG has been around since the first publication of one in 1912 by Ukrainian scientist Vladimir Vladimirovich Pravdich-Neminsky. It involves the use of many electrodes attached to the scalp via conductive gel. Each electrode records electrical signals coming from specific areas in the brain, with higher electrode numbers increasing the resolution of the scan.
Now, though, new technology such as “dry” electrodes which need no gel and artificial intelligence is allowing electrode numbers to be drastically reduced, sharply driving the price of brain scans downwards. This is incredible news for medical diagnostics – but as with all capitalist societies, it’s also coming with a labor-squeezing side hustle.
The idea behind InnerEye’s technology is to bypass normal human decision-making – which is relatively slow and rubbish in our tech-enhanced 21st century – by combining human brain scans with AI to make the optimum decision. The AI will supposedly combine inputs from the computer screen along with visual processing and reactions within the brain to come to a unified decision, increasing productivity and efficiency.
Doing so also may help AI become better at decision-making, as humans can help it see past the ones and zeros.
Of course, another company in the field called Emotiv states this isn't the main use of their technology – it's actually made for employee wellness. To stop the hellish landscape of brainwave-monitoring Big Brother, Emotiv states it will be closely vetting companies to work with.
“The dystopian potential of this technology is not lost on us,” Tan Lee, co-founder and CEO of Emotiv, told IEE Spectrum.
“So we are very cognizant of choosing partners that want to introduce this technology in a responsible way—they have to have a genuine desire to help and empower employees.”