Social media ‘Sunday’ blues

I have fond memories of going to church every summer Sunday with my grandma, elegant that she naturally was, she would put on her favorite fashion and jewelry for what she knew it was the social gathering event of the week, the moment to look one’s best, share success stories and bring out the most joyful and loving self. Facebook was actually inspired by Sunday’s mass.

Photo showing me on my Sunday's good-girl outfit. Barcelona, early 70s.

Looking and being our best one day a week is manageable, it’s also manageable to receive the same from others, their spark of life, beauty, love and success. But every day, a couple of times, or even more often!, it’s exhausting and, in some occasions, like myself, can lead to symptoms of depression. As my reality kicks in outside the digital world, balancing work with meals, family entertainment, negotiations or strikes, creative needs, challenging relationships and an economic earthquake of a Richter magnitude of 8 or 9, I decided it was time to withdraw from the showering toxicity of constantly feeling that there’s something wrong with me. I have left the Church of LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, and embraced the faith of my confinement view and my present, and future!, meaningful connections.

As someone passionate about technology and emotions, I am always interested in dissecting the value of what we create and try and identify what would be the recommended user guidelines. As much as technology can help us stay in touch with loved ones, find a new audience, stay on top of trends, news or be a source of fun and beauty, it can also be, a source of emptiness. Too many people, too many peacocks, too many goals. I understand everyone has different needs at different times, I just wish that the Sunday social-media mass tradition was more like Alcoholic Anonymous’ groups sometimes, be more real-life balanced.

Thanks for reading. Much love.

Don’t worry about machines reading your emotions, worry about those governing them.

There is a clear trend in emotions in general, and in emotions in AI specifically. The idea fascinates us, that something so “personal” can be read/captured by a machine. In many cases people respond with disgust to these new developments, in others, with curiosity, and the rest, with desire.

The facts:

  • wearable sensors, facial recognition, voice analysis and other technologies exist and are getting better every day. And it is/will be the combination of many of these that provide a “closer” and more accurate reading on the emotional/sensorial moment of a particular person (or group).
  • the above data is stored and managed by someone/many, and whomever has access to it can know about your health, your feelings, your conversations, etc.
  • the integration of emotion AI in different contexts and situations (i.e. hospitals, transport, construction, people with disabilities, etc.) brings increased safety and increased quality of life, at the least. The benefits are impactful.
Above image: April 23rd, around the corner from my house. Could such technologies have avoided this dreadful accident?

So, should we focus our emotion-tech-trend in battling against the technologies themselves or bring the focus to the governance of the data gathered through these? Should we request speedier policies to adapt to the rapid tech developments? Maybe new forms of oversight, supervision and control that helps enforce these? And, wouldn’t we want to include here the issues about the data gathered from anything that we write or say using technologies?

These are interesting times for closely monitoring what’s happening in this exciting and controversial field.

Related news and special thanks:

  • Special congratulations to Rana El Kaliouby for her newly released book Girl Decoded, nice memories of us dining out with the computer on the table and discussing facial recognition variables… 
  • And last but not least, I want to dedicate this first post to the woman that first introduced me to emotion-detection technologies in 2001: Rosalind W. Picard, founder and director of the Affective Computing research group at the MIT Media Lab. Thanks Roz!