liar
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New technology knows when we’re lying

Lie-detecting technology is being used in banks and police stations to figure out who is trustworthy and who is not.

What it means: Think you’ve got a good poker face? Think again. Apparently, technology can now tell when any of us are lying, by picking up micro-expressions in our facial movements. And that’s not all. The way we write changes depending on whether we’re writing the truth or not… so technology can pick up our written porkies too.

Being able to detect liars would be good for lots of people. Banks in China are using cameras to figure out when loan applicants are fibbing about what they want to do with the cash and/or whether they can back it back. And police in Spain have started using artificial intelligence technology to figure out whether written reports of robbery are true or not.

What would economies look like if everyone always told the truth? (We might have some different politicians, for a start). There could be big benefits. One of the Chinese bank bosses who uses lie-detecting tech says that his business now loses 60 percent less money from people not paying their loans back. That’s good for the bank, but it might also be good for people who could benefit from a loan but currently struggle to prove their creditworthiness: because they’re poorer, say, or ran into financial difficulties in the past.

The Spanish police, meanwhile, were able to dismiss 83 percent of the robbery claims that the tech had flagged as false, giving them more time and resources to spend on real crimes. And it’s easy to see how we could all benefit from a justice system that is much better at knowing who is innocent and who is guilty.

But there could be big problems too. If the technology isn’t 100 percent accurate, then honest people will be unfairly accused of being liars, and wrongly shut out of financial and justice systems. And even if the tech is always right, lots of people will consider it creepy and morally questionable. Lies don’t always cause harm - they can protect people’s feelings, keep our personal lives private and keep us or other people safe. And for some people, ensuring we all have privacy and safety should be valued much more highly than getting back the money we currently lose to fraud and other lies.

Read our explainers on technology and innovation and values.

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Reader Comments

  • RW

    Your right to a degree. You mentioned “the wandering Jew”.

    I elaborate that the Jewish people, historically have tended to migrate almost exclusively to locations that are economically and culturally vibrant already. I would speculate that Jews have thrived in these places and have often improved the bounds of their economies and knowledge base.

    You can also ask; how many massive entertainment conglomerates, Nobel winners or billionaires has Isreal developed? If Jews are so capable, why isn’t Tel Aviv the Rome of our time?

    Jews are successful because they value education, maintain a strong social cohesive, they actively monitor and have a good sense for Zeitgeist wherever they are and they carefully choose the places they settle and congregate themselves heavily in these choice locations.

    But most importantly (haulocaust increased the importance of this aspect), they actually designed their culture for success. They not only attend Harvard, they use what they learned to better the group as a whole. With as much, they studied intricate networking systems, adapted to it and in many cases improved upon them. (See how Japan acquired Aegis warships and made them better).

    Of course there is nothing wrong with any of this. It’s when you elaborately gain disproportionate power in any society where you would stand out, you must take care when attempting to make a society better (Civil Rights movement) and rewriting that society all together (mass immigration). Ask blacks in China, Mexico, Philippines or India how much opportunity they have? Go to businesses owned by their American diaspora and see how many blacks they hire. Go to Silicon Valley and see how many East or South Asian tech workers wish they could work with more black people. California might work as a state, but as a nation, I think your rolling the nuclear dice here. I hope we can succeed as a tolerant pluralistic superpower but at this stage in human societal development, it’s a pipe dream.

    And if Jews really are the icon for success, they would see that fundamental human successes happen over generations. Just look at the rest of the planet? Are we ready?