The robotic censor – a reality at last?

The Daily Mail reports on a new device called Themis, which apparently lets rip a loud obnoxious two-minute alarm sound when “Through the use of speech recognition and sound sensors we were able to program Themis to detect offensive terms – racial slurs, offensive jokes – through the microphone,” according to the company showing off the device at a trade show in Dubai.

Themis Goddess of Justice Sculpture: Large
A statue (idol?) of Themis, 2nd wife of Zeus, aka “Lady Justice”

(Themis is supposedly the Greek goddess of “justice and social order.” According to wickedpedia, she is “one of the twelve Titan children born to Gaia and Uranus. She is described as “[the Lady] of good counsel,” and is the personification of divine order, fairness, law, natural law, and custom. Her symbols are the Scales of Justice, tools used to remain balanced and pragmatic.” Themis, the Greek goddess of justice, is blindfolded for impartiality and traditionally holds balanced scales and a sword. This proposal seems to be anything BUT good counsel, fairness, and all that. (Be aware, that there are dozens of acronyms and endeavors named Themis online.))

The purpose? Apparently, after Themis’ alarm turns off, the people subjected to the two-minute alarm are supposed to have “an open, understanding discussion among people on the possible trigger matter and the potential reasons behind Themis’s activation.” Of course, if you use the same “offensive” words or phrases, or refer to WHAT was and was not a racial slur or a disgusting joke, will not Themis, in its godly wisdom, again blast everyone’s ears? So much for “open discussion.” (This company better have a really vandal proof device and a great insurance policy: even the most mild of people would be ready to rip it out of the wall and trample it to pieces.)

This immediately reminded me of some of the nastier scenes of 1984 and Brave New World. And those, in turn (Intern -pun intended) reminded me of real history: how Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist international Communism practices a nasty little ritual called self-criticism. This device apparently is intentionally designed to stifle dialogue – whenever its programming detects something “unacceptable” – and is supposed to then FORCE people to confess their supposed sins of being offensive.

Criticism and self-criticism was a very common brainwashing technique and literally a (religious) ritual used in various Communist regimes: “The technique of “criticism and self-criticism” (kritika i samokritika) was developed during the early days of the Soviet Union. This got results. When the early Soviet show trials and purges took place, the targets would confess to committing treason—the details stretching credulity—and beg for execution. The Maoists (Chinese Communists) used it too, typically during “struggle sessions.” Also, forced confessions were required in Vietnam for prisoners in reeducation camps.” (Read more about it at The Return of Kings.)

And not just in Communist countries. Herb Philbrick, among others, described how this ritual, both brainwashing and a method of internal party discipline, was used in the Communist Party of the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. I have no doubt that many, many socialist and similar organizations (however informal or “leaderless” they may be) continue to use such a idea. It is based on obvious psychological concepts: no different in some ways from what Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) uses, or so I understand. And too many religious groups.

But Themis seems to be both mainstreaming it and automating it – letting it be used in both private “education” and government-run, tax-funded “public” schooling.

Of course the devil is in the details: who programs what the “offensive words” and “offensive concepts” and joking are? How is it programmed? Is it as simple as going off if someone says the n-word or the s-word? Is it programmable on the fly? Can “Let’s Go Brandon” be added remotely to the system? And by whom? Is perhaps the mere saying of an evil person’s name – like “Nixon” or “Trump” enough? And can it distinguish between accents? Does it include dirty words or slang terms? Remember that in Victorian times, women (at least “gentlewomen” or “ladies”) did not have legs – they had limbs. To say nothing of different definitions and similarly sounding words? Will wog get mixed up with pog? Will a “fag” as the word in used in the UK (referring to a cigarette) be confused with a “derogatory” word?

And in the future? In Communist countries, such words as “God” and “Jesus” and such phrases as “free press” and “free speech” would have and did set off figurative alarm bells. Now that alarm (whether bells or not) could be real.

Big corporations can no doubt use such a device, perhaps with some modifications, to control the coffee break discussions and monitoring their call centers’ employees. And together, it is very easy to

This robotic censor and promoter of criticism and self-criticism rituals does indeed herald yet another ramping up of the totalitarian state: not just society.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (christian), Pahasapan, Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer.
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