AI Facial Profiling, Levels Of Paranoia


In 2016, two scientists from Jiao Tong University of Shanghai, Xiaolin Wu and Xi Zhang, published a scientific research on modern physiognomy Automated Inference on Criminality using Face Images. They claim to have been able to train an artificial intelligence to detect the criminal potential of a person with great precision based solely on a photo of his face (link to paper). The following year, researchers Yilun Wang and Michal Kosinski of Stanford University published another scientific paper Deep Neural Networks Can Detect Sexual Orientation From Faces in which they said they had trained another AI to detect people's sexual orientation based solely on a photo of their face (link to paper). These two publications testify of the resuscitating controversial physiognomic statement that human character traits could be linked to the physical aspect through machine learning algorithms.

AI Facial Profiling, Levels of Paranoia is a project taking part of the process of associating scientific researches with artwork. It is essentially in the field of artificial intelligence and seeks to reveal and share scientific results through design. It's a profiling machine that recognizes the ability of an individual to handle firearms and predicts his potential danger from a biometric analysis of his face. The device is made of a weapon-camera that captures the faces of the spectators, and a machine equipped with an artificial intelligence that classifies the visitors according to two typologies, those who have skills to handle firearms and those who do not. It also includes a mechanical system that generates intelligence cards with profiled people's photography and then categorizes them into two categories, those with a high risk of being dangerous and those with a lower risk.

These elements combine in a “physiognomic machine” that evokes the chain processes of the industry by playing on the automated mechanisms. This artwork is indeed based on industrial technical principles to build a “thinking machine”. Mechanization is an ideal medium for exposing the effects of algorithmic classification because it symbolizes and materializes the dehumanization of its processes and refers to the legitimization as well as the difficulty of empowering decision-making by these systems.

In an era of cameras that are multiplying quietly, passing more and more unnoticed, the presence of a human operator who directly points the weapon-camera on one’s face reminds the presence of these surveillance devices and the intrusive side of the facial recognition technology. It is by imagining such a configuration that AI Facial Profiling, Levels of Paranoia proposes a staging inspired by airport security infrastructures and takes the individual as the starting point for a critical reflection about algorithmic biases and the bipolarization of human labeling; a narrative more centered on the practical applications of these profiling systems and their impacts. Through this approach I question the ethical limits and the status of these technological artifacts by making their stakes felt more immediately than the scientific discourse, which is often difficult to access for the general public.

The experience proposed by this device aims to stimulate reflection, awareness and debate on the ethical and social issues of artificial intelligence for the greatest number, beyond the academic circle.

art installation realized in collaboration with: 

Olivier Rey — Modeling and 3D printing 
Laurent Weingart — Software Development 
and Marc Wettstein — Construction

Photographs © HEAD – Genève, Batiste Coulon, Geneva, 2018
Photographs © Sandra Pointet / Local F11, Geneva, 2018
CICR — Digital Risk in Situations of Armed Conflict  /  CodeNode, London 2018