George Orwell is truly rolling in his grave right now—because this is pretty dang dystopian. Canon offices in China have installed cameras with AI-enabled “smile recognition” technology, which will only let workers enter rooms or book meetings if they are smiling.
Canon Information Technology had previously announced its “smile recognition” AI cameras last year as one of their workplace management tools. But it was again highlighted more recently from a report about how Chinese companies are surveilling employees to an unsettling degree with the help of AI and algorithms by The Financial Times.
“Workers are not being replaced by algorithms and artificial intelligence. Instead, the management is being sort of augmented by these technologies… Technologies are increasing the pace for people who work with machines instead of the other way around, just like what happened during the industrial revolution in the 18th century,” wrote King’s College London academic Nick Srnicek.
But China of course isn’t alone. Global companies that use modern software suites like Microsoft 365 have access to built-in surveillance tools. Managers can evaluate each employee’s productivity level by tracking how long each apps are used per day. American company Amazon is also known for overworking their warehouse workers, and even firing those who rank low in their productivity scale using algorithms.
This just means that Canon’s “smile” cameras are small fry compared to what technology and AI can do to make the modern workplace look like a 1984 reference. But I have to admit that forcing someone to be happy 100 percent of the time at a work area is pretty terrifying, especially due to my resting bitch face.