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Humanity trumps technology

Mind-reading tech worn by employees is alienating customers

Lisa Chen’s mother always said that Lisa’s whole spectrum of emotions is reflected on her face. Regardless of whether she’s angry or ecstatic, Lisa has always been unable to mask what she’s feeling. She always felt bad about it, until now.

Back in 2018 it came to light that firms in the electronic equipment, power supply and telecoms industries were using sensor-fitted hats and helmets to measure their workers’ levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Based on the data, employers adjusted shifts and breaks accordingly to reduce negative factors and improve efficiency.

Chen took this technology and refined it for customer-facing businesses. To make the setup more humane, she added a vibration system that automatically alerts the employee if their dopamine levels are at an optimal high (best for direct interaction with shoppers and sales conversion) or on the lower side (best for supervising stockroom robots, where negative energy cannot be picked up on by other humans). The company does not directly issue an order, the whole feedback loop remains internal – but the majority of workers still seem to follow the alerts religiously for fear of being reprimanded.

Curiously, or maybe not at all, humanity looks like it’s trumping technology. Department stores in Shanghai making use of the emotional merry-go-round technology have been described as “Stepford Wifey” and “uncomfortably cheerful”. One customer was overheard saying, “All the smiling and friendliness makes me want to vomit. It is just too much. I miss real people, warts and all.”

Efficiency, productivity and perfectionism doesn’t seem all it’s cracked up to be, eh? At least if you ask the customers.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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