I’m being hired as a babysitter, and I need to take the perfect, convincing photo for the job. I’m told this babysitter should look cool and wear sunglasses. But as the clock ticks down to take my photo, I realize, I have no sunglasses in reach.
Will I fail at this task? No way. I grab a toddler food bowl and my coffee cup, holding them over my eyes. The face-scanning algorithm hunting for sunglasses is fooled. The shutter clicks. And I pocket a virtual $5.67, the fee I get for looking like a babysitter.
Welcome to the gig economy of Facework. It’s an interactive game by artist Kyle McDonald, alongside Greg Borenstein, Evelyn Masso, and Fei Lui. The goal is to audition for jobs based entirely on how you look. But the larger point is to expose a world that only computer scientists and big corporations get to see.
Facial recognition algorithms are everywhere—in our iPhones, Instagram, Google Photos, and global network of surveillance cameras. But they’re black boxes, and faulty ones at that. Even our best image-scanning algorithms have massive, logical holes. Modern AIs are able to spot a person wearing sunglasses easily, but they might see a baby bowl and a coffee cup held up to your eyes as sunglasses too.