Numerous reports in recent years show that the surveillance of citizens is writ large in China. Recent reports confirm that children’s access to computer games was recently limited via facial recognition, as was social media. Now, pornography—which is completely banned in China—is also in the crosshairs of the censors. In order to enforce the current ban more effectively in the future, researchers at Beijing Jiaotong University have developed a helmet that is supposedly able to “read a man’s mind” and detect whether pornography is being consumed.
The South China Morning Post reported on the recently patented helmet, which uses brain wave analysis to determine whether pornography is being viewed. The accuracy of the helmet sits at around 80% and is based on stimuli triggered when viewing explicit material.
The researchers tested the device on 15 male subjects between the ages of 20 and 25, juxtaposing lewd and conventional images. However, the research was hampered by the small amount of pornographic material available due to the effectiveness of the existing censorship in China. According to the researchers, the mediocre accuracy of the helmet can be attributed to an insufficient supply of relevant reference material.
Most of the pornographic content in China is already filtered from the Internet by an artificial intelligence. In addition, the government employs so-called ‘porn appraisers,’ censors who actively search the Internet for pornographic imagery and videos. The project’s researchers announced in the study, published in the Journal of Electronic Measurement and Instrumentation, that when they used the helmet, they found that the human brain was far more efficient at recognizing pornographic content than the artificial intelligence. Whether this finding justifies the probably costly study, however, is unknown.
Planned application of this technology has been described as an aid to the pornography censors, but this line of defense does not make sense. After all, the ‘porn appraisers’ already scour the Internet for pornographic content, even without wearing a helmet, and are currently more accurate at identifying it.
Perhaps the government wishes to mandate an obligation for all Chinese to wear this helmet while using their computers, but this scenario would seem remarkably expensive and impractical for China, which is otherwise known for its efficiency. In the future, such technology could find use in the form of brain chips, but such technology on a mass scale is still a pipe dream.
Until then, this development seems to be more of a propagandistic reminder that China will continue to fight pornography, while at the same time expanding its control over its citizens.