The biggest lie tech people tell themselves — and the rest of us

Imagine you’re taking an online business class — the kind where you watch video lectures and then answer questions at the end. But this isn’t a normal class, and you’re not just watching the lectures: They’re watching you back. Every time the facial recognition system decides that you look bored, distracted, or tuned out, it makes a note. And after each lecture, it only asks you about content from those moments.

This isn’t a hypothetical system; it’s a real one deployed by a company called Nestor. And if you don’t like the sound of it, you’re not alone. Neither do the actual students.

When I asked the man behind the system, French inventor Marcel Saucet, how the students in these classes feel about being watched, he admitted that they didn’t like it. They felt violated and surveilled, he said, but he shrugged off any implication that it was his fault. “Everybody is doing this,” he told me. “It’s really early and shocking, but we cannot go against natural laws of evolution.”