UNMASKING THE HUMAN FACE
Director(s): Josh FREED – Writer(s): Josh FREED Contact Print page
Face recognition is a powerful new technology. It can unlock our phones and doors, pay our bills, replace our passports…and let governments track our whereabouts, anywhere we go.
But behind the science is the story of how we humans recognize faces. Because, let’s face it, we all have the same tedious configuration of features: two eyes above a nose and a mouth. To an alien we’d probably look as similar as a flock of sheep.
Yet we humans are skilled experts at telling each other apart. Studies show the average person can remember thousands of faces; from those we haven’t seen for decades - to celebrities we’ve never met.
Just how do we recognize faces and what would life be like if we couldn't? A surprising number of people are “face blind” and can’t recognize anyone at all.
Many others are “super-recognisers” and can remember almost every face they’ve ever seen, even in a single TV ad 15 years ago. Facial recognition is one of our brain’s more sophisticated functions but, until very recently, it’s been one of neuroscience’s least understood. However, in the last decade scientists are finally cracking the brain’s facial code, bringing startling new discoveries that could eventually make us all super recognizers.
But these discoveries are allowing face recognition technology to mimic our brains and create a new kind of state surveillance that’s expanding quickly in Europe and America. China has people’s faces clearly in its sights. It’s using them to set up a “digital dictatorship”, registering its citizens face by face. They even claim they’re learning to analyse people’s facial expressions and read their sexual preferences and thoughts.
As machines crack the secrets of the human face, what are the revelations and ramifications? Are we all going to be recognized and knowable in an instant, wherever we are, in a Big Brother face recognition world? Identifying people is an ancient ability, but what happens now that we are Unmasking the Human Face?