Int. Herald Tribune
Leave the Mouse alone

Paris, Wednesday, January 12, 2000


Researchers developing the "Emotion Mouse" at IBM, and an array of other technological mood sensors in labs around the United States that are exploring the growing field of "affective computing," send a chill down the low-tech spine.

Computers are way too patronizing now, with their intrusive spell-checking, grammar corrections, customized sales pitches, constant offers to craft our memos and letters, and impenetrable "help" files.

The friendly mouse, coated in copper, wired to pick up sensations from the skin, is supposed to register frustration and turn off the cloying editing functions. The device could also slow down a program for an operator who appeared to be lost, or repeat prompts to a person whose attention was wandering.

It would be a short walk from this kind of Big Brother monitoring to worse - messages on the screen, or voices, perhaps accompanied with a little electric shock, telling a person to "get with the program or log off."