Facial Recognition

In a metro of 6.3 million, what are the odds of recognizing a face on a crowded dance floor at a free concert…in a city park…at night?

dance floor at Miller Theater - Houston
The dance floor at Miller Outdoor Theater in Houston. Photo/Nick Noecker

After processing this photo we did actually recognize a couple faces. This kind of thing happens a lot. We’ve recognized faces in crowded airports all over the world. The world with 7 billion faces. Some we’ve seen several times in vastly different places. How is it possible?

Life is not random—it consists of patterns. Travel patterns, work habits, and universal love of coffee expose certain people to the same scenes over and over. Sooner or later we begin to recognize faces against what appears to be impossible odds. Humanity swims in a stream of patterns—the odds favor facial recognition.

Until recently, facial recognition was a function of eyesight combined with brainpower. But today, facial recognition is a function of surveillance cameras attached to the internet integrated with Big Data computers to identify commercial opportunities and security threats. These systems do not yet rival human brains but they are infinitely quicker at processing raw data. What they lack in nuance they more than make up for in brute-force.

Facial recognition is now a real-time planetary-scale app. Life will never be the same. We are like the native peoples of the 1800s who lived in the Western Territories right before a wave of settlers, fortune-hunters, and railroads came and transformed reality…forever. No one then knew what the future would bring but transformation took place over decades so people had time to adjust. Today transformations occur over the course of a few years…or months. With technology advancing at an increasing rate, the future is more now than later.

But when transformation occurs at the speed of electrons…will we be able to recognize its face?

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2 thoughts on “Facial Recognition

  1. I got spotted by my friends and relatives on at least 3 occasions: once in the Chronicle when I was in the background of a page featuring a random beer bar scene, in Poland when I relative I didn’t know, in a distant town, picked up my photo ( there was a name), and in TEXAS Travel guide I was spotted in a crowd in Galveston by someone I met a couple of times, after, they ordered a copy of it from Texas Tourist agency of sorts when living in California. The guide was 250 pages long with thousand of photos !!!!

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