ZHENGZHOU: In the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, a police officer wearing facial recognition glasses spotted a heroin smuggler at a train station. In Qingdao, a city famous for its German colonial heritage, cameras powered by artificial intelligence helped police snatch two dozen criminal suspects in the midst of a big annual beer festival. In Wuhu, a fugitive murder suspect was identified by a camera as he bought food from a street vendor. With millions of cameras and billions of lines of code, China is building a high-tech authoritarian future. Beijing is embracing technologies like facial recognition and artificial intelligence to identify and track 1.4 billion people. It wants to assemble a vast and unprecedented national surveillance system, with crucial help from its thriving technology industry.
Artificial intelligence has long been thought of in terms similar to that of fusion power -- it's always 20 years away. Outside, it was a normal morning. Inside, looking out the window and barely noticing the chickadee, the business woman, a manager at a large call center downtown, waited for her morning coffee. It was a short wait. Her coffee maker knew that she woke at 5:30 a.m. It knew that because the alarm clock in the woman's bedroom sensed her movement and saved that information to the woman's Amazon Web Services (AWS) account. The coffee maker, also tied to that AWS account, took the hint and turned itself on. Ten minutes later, the shower came on in the bathroom. This also was noted by the house's systems and that data point was duly recorded by the woman's AWS account. That was the next cue for the coffee maker. It was plumbed directly into the house's water lines, and it opened the valve and filled itself with just the right amount of water to brew the coffee. It was brewing as the woman dressed, and five minutes after the woman appeared, the coffee was delivered to her by her Boston Dynamics personal assistant. She took a sip, just as the chickadee flew away. It was now 6:30 a.m., and time to leave for the office. Just like every other weekday, it would be a peaceful commute. As she left her apartment building and the door closed behind her, her ride was just pulling up to the curb.
This photo taken on February 5, 2018 shows a police officer wearing a pair of smartglasses with a facial recognition system at Zhengzhou East Railway Station in Zhengzhou in China's central Henan province. Chinese police are sporting high-tech sunglasses that can spot suspects in a crowded train station, the newest use of facial recognition that has drawn concerns among human rights groups. We seem to be heading into a future where facial recognition technologies are going to be part of everyday life. Cities all over the world are now bristling with cameras, and in the case of China it is impossible to avoid being monitored either by CCTV or even by police wearing special glasses and then logged onto a database that checks on your habits, your social credit and even who your friends are. At the same time, cameras and facial recognition are increasingly being used in public and private buildings.