Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cognitive Dissonance

Power was finally restored at my house when our neighbor stopped a DP&L truck yesterday. How long did it take to restore power? 15 minutes! The greatest irony though was our neighbor talking to DP&L on her cell phone when she spotted the truck while customer service was pointing out that our area still was not scheduled.

I guess that bit of cognitive dissonance set the stage for this strange item. The Fox News website has an article posted on “MALINTENT” a new system under development by Department of Homeland Security. The system supposedly can detect non-verbal cues to predict hostile intentions by passengers. You can read the article here.

I’m not a conspiracy type nor do I believe “The Matrix” was somehow allegorical. The development of MALINTENT does make me what to reconsider those positions. Human beings tend to experience a wide range of emotions at any given time. These emotions can lead to any number of micro-expressions and other non-verbal cues. Cultural and ethnic differences cause people to react to emotions differently. Accurately reading non-verbal cues by means of a computer program leaves me skeptical. The potential for errors in reading something as vague as non-verbal cues and reacting to computer assessments on such esoteric constructs is great.
I’m neither an attorney nor a constitutional expert but this seems to be akin to invasion of privacy. My thoughts and emotions are my own and I share them only with those I choose. MALINTENT would appear to take that vestige of privacy away from airport passengers. Air travel has never really recovered from the events of 9-11. Increased security procedures have made checking-in a hassle. To reduce costs, airlines have eliminated all in-flight perks and now charge in some cases even for pillows and blankets. These factors alone have contributed to the decline in air travel; if nothing else MALINTENT would be just one more disincentive to commercial air travel.

After World War I, the French constructed a line of concrete fortifications known as the Maginot Line. The intent was to keep Germany from invading France again. When the Germans invaded Belgium in 1940, they simply drove around the Maginot Line. I wonder if the same thing isn’t happening with the DHS obsession with airport security. Are they creating another Maginot Line that the terrorists will simply drive around?

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