Now a company called Mindflash has a new technology to make sure you pay attention to your computer screen. It is marketed to companies who have on-line training programs. The software, called Focus Assist,

uses the tablet’s camera to track a user’s eye movements. When it senses that you’ve been looking away for more than a few seconds (because you were sending e-mails, or just fell asleep), it pauses the course, forcing you to pay attention–or at least look like you are–in order to complete it.

On the one hand, this sounds like a convenient way to deliver information with some assurance that the information is received. On the other hand, the paternalistic flavor is pretty evident. Now the $10,000 question: how many ways could this technology be abused?

 

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Mark T. Mitchell
Mark T. Mitchell teaches political theory at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA. He is the author Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing and The Politics of Gratitude: Scale, Place, and Community in a Global Age (Potomac Books, 2012). He is co-editor of another book titled, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry. Currently he is writing a book on private property. In 2008-9, while on sabbatical at Princeton University, he and Jeremy Beer hatched a plan to start a website dedicated to political decentralism, economic localism, and cultural regionalism. A group of like-minded people quickly formed around these ideas, and in March 2009, FPR was launched. Although he was raised in Montana and still occasionally longs for the west, he lives in Virginia with his wife, three sons and one daughter where they are in the process of turning a few acres into a small farm. See books written by Mark Mitchell.

4 COMMENTS

  1. What George Orwell couldn’t anticipate is that Big Brother would be a commercial enterprise. We are rightly concerned about the NSA reading monitors our mail, but we blithely accept that Google actually reads it, and sells the information to corporate marketeers.

  2. “We are rightly concerned about the NSA reading monitors our mail, but we blithely accept that Google actually reads it, and sells the information to corporate marketeers.”

    That “we” would be me. I’m intensely opposed to the former, not especially worked up about the latter.

  3. “We are rightly concerned about the NSA reading monitors our mail, but we blithely accept that Google actually reads it, and sells the information to corporate marketeers.”

    I’m less concerned with the former, and increasingly distrustful of the latter. The former, at the end of the day, answer to us. It’s a cumbersome, slow, imperfect system, but all in all it’s the best anyone’s seen. The latter, who are just looking for a buck? Who controls them?

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