Co.Design

Looking For Faces In All The Wrong Places

What does our poor facial-recognition software do when it looks at images with no faces?

Out of seemingly nowhere (though antiterrorism software played a role), facial-recognition software became very, very good. Facebook can tag your friends. Cameras can focus on faces and snap shutters during smiles. But what we’ve essentially built is a wave of software savants—geniuses in one field that can’t tie their shoes in another.

It’s an idea explored by Manuel Fernández in his collection Recognition, a series of animated GIFs that emulate facial recognition software attempting to make sense of a world without people.

No doubt, there’s a strong element of social criticism here, as Fernández points out that social media has “enabled a visual narcissism never before known in [another] historical period.” I’m not sure that taking a few quick selfies is more narcissistic than old royalty hiring artists to spend weeks painting their portraits, but his opinion strongly contextualizes the work. Watching this green box scan and resize in attempts to recognize a human in a pigeon, I actually begin to feel pity for this software we’ve created. It’s forced to scan an endless wave of photos, devoid of the logic to understand anything unless humanity is involved.

In Fernández’s work, society becomes a god that’s created life that’s only intelligent enough to recognize His own image. It’s as if we’re building lobotomies from the ground up. Look at us, machines, for we are beautiful.

See more here.

[Hat tip: Triangulation]

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