The Washington Post reports that Chinese tech giant Huawei has developed face-scanning technology that identifies Uighur Muslims and alerts police. Reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984, the technology has been in use since 2018.
The artificial intelligence surveillance system can scan a crowd and determine age, sex, and ethnicity.
Uighurs live in northwest China and have been detained in Chinese re-education camps, drawing the ire of human rights activists worldwide.
On reports of the news, soccer superstar Antoine Griezmann has cut ties with Huawei. He was a global ambassador for the company.
Let’s turn this into a new story, tying in the pandemic: What if there’s a way for an AI system to determine who’s sick, alerting local authorities and forcing them to quarantine?
It’s an excellent start to a surveillance state. It sets up the misuse of the technology through a unified effort from the company and their government.
In this scenario, people wouldn’t even have to adopt a new wearable tech or allow tracking via phone; the government would know their movements based on the cameras.
At first, companies can also leverage the data from the AI to sell more products through targeted ads with greater relevance. For example, they would see you shopping for shoes, then serve ads from shoe companies. This is similar to Google’s tracking, except it would transfer over to the real world.
Most would find the transition seamless and benefit from the increased relevance of products served to them on social media.
But what if the AI started pouring resources into high-spending people, ignoring those with less disposable money? Over time, they are left out of the surveillance complex and left to their own devices.
This would set up a stratified world between those who can afford to feed data to the AI and those who live on the fringes, made literal by their physical separation.
The hero of the story could be a wealthy young man who wants to learn more about the people who live “on the other side.” He tries visiting the areas that spend less and is ostracized because of how many ads are served to him on billboards and television.
In short, everyone in the less-wealthy parts of the state is exposed to his ads because the system knows he’s the only one who spends.
The story can hinge on him wanting to get out of the surveillance state, going so far as to get underground cosmetic surgery. He has a choice near the end: save the woman he loves by revealing his access to medical care or letting her die and preserving his anonymity. At the end of the novel, he’s discovered in his new skin.
Further books in the series would be about him battling the AI, first trying to get them to help those previously ignored, then taking down the entire system himself.