The IFTF Blog
Lie Detectors Everywhere
Want to know if your son ate his vegetables? Now, based on the work of some Yale researchers, you may be able to figure out what your child, or anyone else, ate by simply bouncing a blue light off of the palms of someone's hands and looking for a slight yellow discoloration that signals a diet high in vegetables. It's an interesting example of an emerging class of lie-detection technologies that are on the verge of reshaping what we know about ourselves--and each other.
Take a separate example, recently covered by C-Net's Cutting Edge blog. It highlights a new way to process video, frame by frame and in real-time, to look for things like blood rushing to the face, which indicate that someone is lying. Or consider a separate system that successfully figured out who was lying more than 80 percent of the time, simply by tracking and evaluating eye movement.
Your days of lying to your computer--or your friends, or your boss, or your spouse--are numbered, in other words.
This is an interesting shift--particularly in light of some of the emerging research into dishonesty. I just got a copy of Dan Ariely's new book, which argues that most of us tend to be a little bit dishonest. I've only just started reading it, but one of his points is that supervision--and I think these kinds of automatic lie detection systems would qualify as supervision--reduces how willing we are to lie. And I'm not entirely sure that's a good thing.
As Cutting Edge's Elizabeth Armstrong notes, these technologies could significantly shift how we interact with each other. "Imagine," she writes, "taking a quick video of a first date's face with your cell phone to detect arousal, or the absence thereof. Time was, we had to rely on instinct for this kind of detection."
I like Armstrong's example because it's an example of the kind of everyday lying that most of us do--we agree to a co-worker's half-baked plan in order to avoid a conflict, tell a spouse that her dress looks pretty, and so on. (Not me, of course! Other people.)
As these technologies improve, our little frustrations, omissions and other dishonesties may become far more apparent to each other. This may help us catch criminals, or even make sure our kids are eating well--but it won't come without a cost.