Technology is rapidly catching up with the human ability to read faces. In America facial recognition is used by churches to track worshippers’ attendance; in Britain, by retailers to spot past shoplifters. This year Welsh police used it to arrest a suspect outside a football game. In China it verifies the identities of ride-hailing drivers, permits tourists to enter attractions and lets people pay for things with a smile. Apple’s new iPhone is expected to use it to unlock the homescreen.
Set against human skills, such applications might seem incremental. Some breakthroughs, such as flight or the internet, obviously transform human abilities; facial recognition seems merely to encode them. Although faces are peculiar to individuals, they are also public, so technology does not, at first sight, intrude on something that is private. And yet the ability to record, store and analyse images of faces cheaply, quickly and on a vast scale promises one day to bring about fundamental changes to notions of privacy, fairness and trust.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the spread of these services has already prompted efforts to thwart them. An Israeli startup, D-ID, which stands for “de-identification”, has developed software that slightly alters photos so that algorithms cannot recognise them. This allows people to share pictures of their faces without having to worry that they will be used to identify them. Others have suggest low-tech defences against sophisticated surveillance systems, such as glasses with hallucinogenic patterns on the frame of the specs, or simply wearing masks or make-up.
The work I saw in Luisa’s Instagram feed synched with the vision. I knew from the cohesive feel of her feed—and her interest in women as subjects—that she could thread a portfolio. What I couldn't know was how well she would use her iPhone in unimaginably small windows of time—sometimes just five minutes to capture cover portraits of some of the most important women in the world. It’s hard to know how even the most experienced talent will wring art from such pressure. Luisa succeeded and exceeded.
"I bought my first iPhone in 2012. It was just a complement to my work back then. But the expectations as a user were growing exponentially as new models come out. Now, my heavy camera is the complement. I went from carrying a camera only when I was on assignment, to carrying a camera on my pocket every single day. Suddenly I was able to make great pictures anytime, anywhere, without the stress of carrying a bag full of lenses, cards and batteries. Also, it feels less intrusive to the model when you ask to take a photo with your phone. I liked the practicality, and of course I liked the resulting images."
For the present, one lesson seems clear: Verticality means immediacy. It’s the aspect ratio of breaking news (courtesy of bystanders) and of social media. We have come to see the now through a vertical frame.
Yes, voice assistants broad the attack field somewhat, but at the moment, this risk is still pretty low in the grand scheme of things. So don’t panic and mute your Echo and your Google Home—you won’t get a lot of use out of them at that point anyway.
The Apple Watch is the last watch most of us will ever wear. Watches, as a fashion statement and a tool, are fading and things like the Apple Watch are the last vestige of these strange objects that William Gibson called “the very finest fossils of the pre-digital age.” The Apple Watch is a hyper-evolved version of the watch that Packard tucked into his waistcoat, the culmination of centuries of work in miniaturization and design. It is also the Omega, the last of its breed. Sure, obsessives like me will still wear mechanical watches as my primary daily wear pieces – most recently I’ve been most enamored by the aforementioned Airman SST Purist edition, one of the few watches with a 24-hour-dial. But even obsessives like me will wear the Apple Watch because, compared to every other electronic watch I’ve tested, barring a few higher-tech Casios, the Apple Watch is still the only – and last – wrist-worn computer worth buying.
I hope I don't get to see my stupid face whenever I unlock my new phone with the FaceID.
Thanks for reading.