Our relationship with technology: the need for a Truth (not Lie) Detector

Questions/themes explored:

  1. Could the polygraph’s limited utility and poor efficacy be a function of zeitgeist and poor product/market fit?
  2. Criminals can easily deceive a polygraph - could an optimal product/market fit for a polygraph be people who are suffering from stress?

First the polygraph.
To understand a technology it helps to understand the period in time in which it was created.

It was 1915, and the US was one year into its first World War, a war that claimed 18m lives. Elizabeth Marston, wife of the man soon to be known as the “father of the polygraph” William Marston, had a revelation. She observed that when she was mad or excited, her blood pressure seemed to climb. Armed with this insight, William Marston went on to be the primary advocate of the polygraph. He initially applied the polygraph to examine German prisoners of war and eventually lobbied for the devices to be used in the court system.

It’s worthy to note that Elizabeth’s Marston insight was personal, it was an enlightened realization that might be applicable in the emotional wellbeing epidemic that we are currently in. Her body went through a physiological state change when she was emotionally aroused, and she could feel it. Her feelings and her body were acting as an indicator to help alert her to a stressful situation. Could this technology be used FOR us, instead of against us? Maybe helping us to have a better relationship with ourselves and our feelings? Well, it was 1915; an era known for war, death, and deception. And a period that did not benefit from the ubiquity of technology that we have now and a time when technology was applied against people to abstract information.

In more recent decades there has been much debate and skepticism around the efficacy of the polygraph. Countless studies are demonstrating that the tests can be deceived. A user can quickly take countermeasures to produce deceptive results — hiding otherwise useful information for the administrator of the test. If you are a sociopath trying to conceal truth you can easily dodge the polygraph bullet by controlling your physiological responses.

So we arrive at our questions: (1) What if the polygraph’s efficacy failure was a function of poor product/market fit? (2) What if an optimal product/market fit for a polygraph was for people who were suffering? (3) would someone who was suffering want to know the truth of what was going on and be less likely to intentionally deceive the technology? (4) what if we could train a smartphone to detect the difference between true and false statements — creating a ubiquitous “truth” detector — would people suffering find this to be a useful tool to help identify the truth of what was occurring?

This is why we developed Sensie, a lie detector turned stress detector.Or more accurately a “truth detector.”

Two polar opposites could define the period of our time. On the one hand, we have financial and technological abundance unlike any other time in history. On the other side, we are living in an emotional wellbeing crisis with unprecedented rates of depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicide.

People struggling with depression and anxiety are prone to over-generalizations, have an “all or nothing” mentality, disqualify the positive, and “should'ing” all over themselves (as in, “I should have done X” or “I should be Y”).

This behavior can impose a negative veil over your perception, tainting everything you come into contact with as “wrong” or “not good” and reinforcing the depressed state. In reality, however, there are plenty of positives and good things to focus on, and if the depression is resulting from social factors, there might be only one or two things that need some awareness in order to be resolved and make an individual feel better.

What if with the help of stress or truth detecting technology you could objectively identify what those one or two things are that need awareness?

And what if you could do that with a device you already own, your smartphone?

This is what we have accomplished. How’d we do it?
To detect stress we needed a gold standard to benchmark our technology and know if we were, in fact, doing anything at all. Oxford University shows that a true vs. false statement is a gold standard for stress! WHAT!? But what about the polygraph? Yes. Yes. Oxford takes it a step further though and says that the true gold standard for stress is the actual verity of the word spoken.

For example, a true statement: “My name is Mike” vs. a false statement: "My name is kate". We had over 108 participants from around the world ask 40 questions each that were true and false based and met the verity standard while using our technology.

Our results were beyond what we anticipated. And ironically our accuracy scores were much higher for true based outcomes (i.e., state: “I am alive”)- which we have a theory on.

We’re now preparing for clinical trials with some of the best researchers in the world — stay tuned! We will be revealing more about the tech in the coming months.

Sensie. A lie detector turned stress detector.

Detect sources of chronic stress with your smartphone.

In 2019, you'll be able to try a decision medicine intervention from our marketplace of care providers. Or drop us a line if you are interested in exploring how SensieKIT can create new experiences for members of your mobile applications.

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