Boys and their toys

It is interesting to see how many different ways the role of face recognition technology in the identification of Osama bin Laden has been reported in recent media reports. As far as I can tell from the reports, it appears that face recognition technology was not used to identify bin Laden post-mortem, as his face would have been severely injured. It appears that the face recognition technology was used last September to verify that he was living in the compound in Pakistan in which he was recently located and executed by US forces. Apparently the face recognition technology was applied to photographs taken by satellite last year, verifying that bin Laden was there, last September.

I find it rather amusing that the face recognition technology is being bought out as evidence to convince the world that Osama bin Laden has definitely been killed. Obviously, the man they found this year could conceivably not be the same bloke who was there last September, and is there anything magically infallible about man-made facial recognition technology compared to the human face recognition system? I doubt it, if you compare machines with super-recognizers. Perhaps the face recognition technology was used to make the identification of bin Laden from a poor-quality photographic image. Poor quality, deliberately snowy images of faces are a part of one of the face recognition tests that I did last year. There is nothing magical or superior about technology identifying faces in bad conditions – the human brain has evolved to do all kinds of amazing things in real-world, difficult situations. Sure, some people are not so good at face recognition, but that is no reason to be dazzled by boys and their high-tech toys. There is no device more amazing or complex than the human mind.

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