Chinese Anti-Porn Helmet Raises Eyebrows, Questions

Did you know that pornography is completely illegal in China? Probably not surprising news, though, right? The country has already put measures in place to scour the Internet in search of explicit content, mostly using AI. But the government also employs human porn appraisers, called jian huang shi, whose job it is to judge images and videos to decide whether they contain explicit content. Also probably not surprising is that humans are better than AI at knowing porn when they see it — or at least, they are faster at identifying it. Weirdness and morality and everything else aside, these jian huang shi are regular people, and frankly, they get exhausted looking at this stuff all day.

So what is the answer to burnout in this particular field? Researchers at Beijing Jiaotong University have come up with a way to bring the technological and human aspects of their existing efforts together. They’ve created a helmet that can detect particular spikes in brainwaves that occur from exposure to explicit imagery. Basically, it flashes a combination of naughty and ho-hum images in rapid succession until a spike is detected, then it flags the offending image.

One Helmet to Protect Them All

Calling this thing a ‘helmet’ is a bit of a stretch, though we suppose that metaphorically speaking, it is meant to ultimately protect Chinese citizens from sensitive content. All of the news outlets seem to be using stock photos of rubber swimming caps covered with electrodes, which is probably about what it looks like. Unfortunately, we can’t find much detail about the device, and none of the outlets seem to have much, either.

We figure that the cap itself is some kind of bog-standard brainwave-capturing contraption, and the business part is in whatever software they wrote to detect brainwaves in real time and associate the telltale spike with that which must be censored. Oh, but during the study, all the images had the super naughty bits covered up with black bars, because porn is illegal in China.

So, how well does it work? The researchers say that the helmet helps flag almost every explicit image in a given set, but that it also gives false positives. All in all, the device’s accuracy is only around 80%, which the researchers put down to a lack of sufficient training material. Ahem.

Working Girls

Although 100% of the volunteers for the study happened to be university-aged young men, today’s active roster of employed jian huang shi are mostly women, and we have to wonder why that is. Was it by design? Does the government prefer women for this task?

We suppose that women are, overall, less distracted by a flash of nipple here, or a nude buttock there. And if you want to get wild and crazy with the theories, we also suppose that women are less likely to let a bit of beefcake through in the interest of their sexually oppressed sisters all over the nation.

Will Blue-Collar Workers Be the First Batteries?

If you think the anti-porn helmet is a sign of The Matrix to come, consider this: Chinese firms in the construction, manufacturing, and transportation fields are already using AI to monitor the attentiveness and emotions of their workers via sensors in their helmets, all in the name of productivity and increasing the number of days since the last accident. Chilling, indeed, especially since there are no laws in place to govern either the use of the equipment, or the information that it gleans. Of course, it would be unfair to paint this as a uniquely Chinese problem, as employee monitoring is a growth industry in the US as well.

But still, there’s something different in kind about a brainwave-reading cap. Maybe we’re catastrophizing here, but how far off can the day be when every citizen has to wake up each day and don their cap? If they’d let you take it off at night.

70 thoughts on “Chinese Anti-Porn Helmet Raises Eyebrows, Questions

    1. And college-age males for your study!

      (Actually, would porn / whatever addicts show more or less electrical response for their stimulus? Do they get tolerized?)

      Kinda dodgy science, but if you’re worried about that, you missed the point of the article…

        1. The technical term is ‘Desensitization’.

          It’s a serious problem in a number of areas, not just porn, as it usually leads to increasingly extreme viewing habits and/or behaviour.

    1. Actually this technology would probably increase the incidence of more obscure paraphilia material through unnatural selection in the same way that vaccines against rapidly mutating RNA viruses actually accelerate their evolution. A bit like the old “This spray kills 99.9% of germs!” when it is the ones that strong enough to survive that we should really be worried about.

      1. It’s not necessarily the “strongest” that survive. It’s just those that don’t get targeted.
        They may get stronger, or they may not.

        Usually the real evolutionary pressure is caused by harm but surviving. It may very well be that those 1% simply don’t get attacked at all, since they are too different, so they wont evolve or get stronger.

  1. And they can have electrodes coming back from the machine, so if someone gets too excited, a little shock will keep them in line.

    Since men outnumber women, women probably have less need for porn. So does that mean they are less interested workers? Or are they worried about letting men loose on this?

    1. “Since men outnumber women, women probably have less need for porn.”

      Another explanation could be that Chinese women know where to get their porn and don’t need this kind of programs to get some.

        1. Women do like porn, especially in younger generations (in the west) the split between genders is even. Porn viewing habits have changed significantly.

          Masturbation is not a replacement for not “getting some”. It’s alone time filled with fantasies, that wont play out like that in real.

          Everybody fantasies and it’s part of a healthy mind. Relying only on other people as resources is not.

          Or if you would like to see it your way, women are sex priviledged? Also doesn’t sound too good.

    1. Sounds like a palate cleanser might help these workers, like cat videos or memes.

      I imagine the brain will recognize the offending content immediately, but then the worker has to decide if it’s offending enough or not, and that would lead to decision fatigue.

  2. Right now our current society is getting closer and closer to the point where it could be destroyed by one lone nut. New mt methods of control are inevitable. The question is will it be the crowd controlling the few or the few controlling the crowd.

    Stop talking about China and America as if those are entities with a single intent or character. It’s misleading. It makes political discourse less clear and less meaningful. Biden and Xi represent each other and themselves, more than the American or Chinese people.

    1. It’s also not quite true that we are represented by singular, powerful people. These people are caught up in the avalanche flows of incentive, technological singularity, and environmental shift. Biden doesn’t control anything. Xi doesn’t control anything. The thing that controls our society is not actually human at all, but a sum of tropisms in our machines. It will run out of control and there’s practically nothing we can do about it. Hopefully it gives birth to something in the process.

      1. That’s too simplified. People pick out topics that are in the current stream of public interest, but they shape and guide where those topics are headed.
        Since many of the topics are global, every country would chose to act the same way, but as can be seen this is obviously not the case.

        It is true however that politicians are *also* shaped by the climate and context of their nations.
        But just because they don’t control all, does not mean they are powerless at all!

    2. “The question is will it be the crowd controlling the few or the few controlling the crowd” . That isn’t even a question, it only works one way. The battle may be between social engineering ‘group’ and the quest for money ‘group’. Of course, if you were too plot this in some magical way so as to be viewed as a chart, or graph, it would look like a funnel. The signs are there. You have to think small steps, like a gigantic puzzle. Extrapolating thought patterns, and what that might mean, is only one little, tiny piece of that puzzle. The real question might be how long will it take.

    3. “Right now our current society is getting closer and closer to the point where it could be destroyed by one lone nut.”

      I absolutely agree!
      That’s why we should bust all the nuts we can!

    4. You realize that this article is about porn and you said society could be destroyed by “one lone nut”? Is this an unintentional double entendre or an extremely clever one?

    5. Speaking of America, puritanism is a strong influence across the entire political spectrum. What people consider left wing in the US, would be considered right wing in Europe. It’s also noticeable the US focuses much more on punishment that reintregration in society. Public registers of offenders of any kind is especially archaic. Unfortunately, this kind of influence is getting more and more strong in Europe again, as well. But the mindset is clearly puritan/American.

      There are cultural differences and trends, even if individuals are different. You can tell also by how arguments are solved, and by what methods political opponents are punished.

      In the US using anything sex related is very popular, and that’s true for both big parties in the US, and the public in general.

  3. They use women for this because of the stereotype that women are less likely to have a distracting sexual response themselves from all those images. Which is of course stupid, it’s just that if a woman does have a distracting sexual response it’s just not as obvious.

  4. Makes me wonder if Furry porn will still slip past under the radar like it nearly always does with all other porn blocking attempts made. But given the human touch in filtering here, perhaps it wont. But however, why would they consider checking for such content to start with, everyone else after all completely forgets about it.

      1. Yes, Winnie the Pooh is a metaphor for the leader of the party. (it is actually interesting how much the Chinese language uses metaphors in general speech. I understand that it is hard to translate.)
        And yes, the Chinese government has an eye on popular metaphors.

        However, Winnie the Pooh and furry artwork in general are rather far removed.
        Now, Winnie the Pooh is a “furry”, an anthropomorphised creature. But rarely considered part of furry culture. Neither is most other “pop culture furries”, like the ones from Disney, Looney toons, etc. (This is however, a simplification.)

        In short, one has a hard time going from these “pop culture furries”, and move from there over to furry culture.

        To an outside observer there might not be much of a distinction between these two. But then an outside observer has rarely seen more than the beach in front of the ocean ahead. Though, most observers are often there on a fogy day as well.

        Similarly to how a casual person might know that voltage and current is needed to run a circuit. But feels afraid to run their 5V 1A device from a 5V 10A PSU, since “it will provide too much current.”

  5. American technology companies are facilitating this because money is gained. We need a digital bill of rights, drafted with the help of the ACLU & EFF, and we need to ban American companies from assisting China with censorship, or this Orwellian nightmare will only get worse. Humanity needs to stop trying to subvert human nature. The world just gets more repressive & frightening by the day. This is not a good thing. This tech is not being used to protect anyone, that’s constantly the excuse of authoritarians everywhere. It’s being used to control people & what they see. If you control what people see, you in effect control them. This obsession with using tech to control humanity needs to go into a dumpster & burn.

    Hackaday glossing over this is helping normalize it. And that is not helping guys.

      1. Absolutely not. For you to even suggest that thinking shows you missed my point entirely.

        Unfortunately books being banned is at an all time high in America, due to people with the same mindsets as the CCP. I wish people would stop trying to control others. Free your mind- think critically.

      2. There is a difference between laying out ideas, and forcing you to censor yours or filtering using tech. The first one can be problematic, but you can still use critical thinking, since the words are passive and you decide what you read and not and how you think about it.
        The latter one stops critical thinking, exchange, and replies, in other words it’s oppressive.
        Fahrenheit 451 explains the difference.

        1. “Fahrenheit 451” is a freaking mess that doesn’t even manage to express the author’s themes as he intended.

          Everyone is all “Fahrenheit 451 is about censorship.”

          Ray Bradbury (who wrote the cursed novel) says it’s about vapid TV shows replacing books.

          Interview with Ray Bradbury:
          https://www.openculture.com/2017/08/ray-bradbury-reveals-the-true-meaning-of-fahrenheit-451.html

          Fahrenheit 451 is a crummy book to to use a reference for book burning and censorship.

    1. This is trivial, there will always be porn. Any attempts to block it can easily be circumvented by use of a vpn service. Only way to create a pornless utopia online is to control all of the internet with an iron glove. Not going to happen.

      1. Even the most iron glove approach will not succeed – you just end up with stenography type systems hiding the in this case porn in plain sight. The only way to make an x free internet is to remove all desire for x from the population on the internet, be draconian enough in punishment for it, with enough control and monitoring to actually catch some folks for their public and painful execution and you can likely cut down the quantity as fewer folks will be willing to take the now much poorer risk-reward ratio, but there will always be some for whom that doesn’t matter.

        Not to mention your iron glove terrorizing enforcement agency is full of people, who likely start feeling above the law and will make sure they can get what they want in ways that don’t get them in trouble, and being people are likely to want the ‘forbidden’ they get to casually deny most others…

  6. Prohibition is a boost to any industry.
    And there is no prohibitions without personal interest of some powerful person behind it…
    But it’s very sad to watch how mankind put so much technology and effort on controlling and destroying itself.

  7. The initial recognition the helmet can detect is likely simple pattern matching, using the brain as an advanced time deterministic NN. After that the brain switches into time unbounded reasoning mode to filter edge cases and the helmet is lost trying to make sense of it, as are all ANNs trying to replicate human intelligence

    1. The endless comedy of a programmer attempting to replicate something they haven’t the slightest idea of.
      The old vision of Monkeys on typewriters producing shakesphere, except this one has the monkey’s blindfolded too.

  8. Make them more attractive and less obtrusive.
    Make them in pairs.
    When one activates it sends a subtle message to the other and something happens. All sorts of possibilities as to what.

    That’s a much more useful product.

  9. Humanity needs freedom from the “puritan lifeform” in its defective one cell brain everything is bad.
    Time to stamp out the backward puritan cavemen that still inbreed their way into the human genome.

  10. Less intrusive ways to detect arousal:
    – a device that measures pheromone production (yes we produce that) when we are aroused.
    – a device that measures variations in heart rate when we are aroused (risk of false positives).
    – a contraption that detects changes of blood flow to the reproductive organs and detect arousal before the user is even consciously aware of it. OK that one may not be less intrusive…

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.