What won’t they think of next?

A portable computer/camera combination can read emotions from facial expressions and gestures in real time.

A device to warn autistic people when they’re annoying or boring others could do a great deal of good in the world. (Imagine if Larry Summers had owned one.)

But I’m less excited by the potential benefits than I am dazzled by the idea that a piece of software that runs on a computer small enough to fit in your pocket can be taught to recognize the symptoms of boredom or annoyance, as well as other emotions not expressed by a simple facial expression. The implications for social-psych and anthropology research, to say nothing of marketing studies, should be profound.

Footnote I won’t defend my appetite for science fiction on literary grounds, But one advantage of having spent a good chunk of one’s adolescence reading sci-fi is that you expect rapid technological change. Even against that backdrop, though, this seems like a remarkable feat of techno-wizardry.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com