The tech company Canon has come up with a completely idealistic way to solve the problem of workplace fraud. A camera with AI-assisted “smile recognition” technology has been installed in the Chinese subsidiary Canon’s information technology office. The camera ensures that only smiling workers can enter the conference room or schedule a meeting, ensuring that all employees are always 100% satisfied.
this sad story financial times It explains how Chinese companies are using AI and algorithms to monitor their employees to an unsettling level. Businesses are monitoring the programs employees use on their computers to measure productivity. Measure how long it takes for lunch using CCTV cameras. You can also use the mobile app to track your movements outside the office.
As scholar Nick Srnicek of King’s College London put it, FT: “Workers are not replaced by algorithms and artificial intelligence. Instead, management is being kind of augmented by these technologies. […] Technology is speeding up people working with machines, not the other way around, just like what happened during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.”
Canon Information Technology actually announced a “smile-aware” camera last year as part of a suite of workplace management tools, but the technology doesn’t seem to get much attention. In fact, the fact that it’s gone through radar is a good example of what’s going on with common surveillance tools like this, not just China.
Western readers sometimes tend to ignore the types of surveillance people have portrayed. FT As a foreign phenomenon, countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom are equally at fault. Amazon is perhaps the best example of this dynamic. Amazon is known to squeeze every effort at the expense of warehouse workers’ health, and even use algorithms to rank productivity.
This modern Taylorism is not limited to blue collar work. Many modern software suites, such as Microsoft 365, have built-in surveillance tools. As more people work from home due to the pandemic, more businesses are deploying these features in fear of losing control over their employees. (or for a slightly more cynical read: they always wanted With these tools, the plague provides a convenient excuse.)
That said, AI-enabled smile-recognition cameras are, in many ways, the most dangerous type of surveillance technology. They have obvious advantages. Other control systems are much more subtle and will come to your nearest office someday.