Looking for a Face

I. What does it mean for a computer to understand my face? What does it mean for it to interpret me; what do I look like to a computer?

II. I look at my computer. A black box, but not the kind that divests information. Instead, an opaque being. Sitting. Humming. It doesn’t have a face, not in the way that I or my dog or a fish has a face–not in the way that Levinas or Sloterdijk would have it. But still, it is there, humming.

III. Do you remember that scene in Se7en when Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt need to find a face in a sea of faces? They run some proto facial recognition software and it takes hours and hours. The computer looks through all of those faces, doing work that humans won’t, or can’t, because it requires too fine of an eye. A computer trying to find a face.

IV. My face is reducible to a pattern. You can find me in shapes, panels, lights and darks, contrast and brightness. I can be found by the shadows in my eyes. I can be found by my jawline.

V. My computer has parts inside of it. It has green planks and blue connections and red wires. It isn’t those things, but they are part of it. And with those pieces, it thinks about my face. It thinks about lots of things. It goes about its life, thinking and doing, probably the same as I do.

VI. Zeroes and ones. That’s how I would represent a computer, if you held me down and forced me to do it. But that doesn’t capture it; that isn’t what a computer is. I’m not shapes and shades, but the computer, held down and forced, tries to think up a face. Neither of us can get it right.

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