During the covid crisis, humans hid their faces behind a mask, to protect themselves, it was said, from the terrible pandemic.
Immersed in the dark, in invisibility, in anonymity, in the absence of identity, in the lack of meaning, the face was changed as an anthropological and metaphysical subject end emerged from behind that mask ready to play another role for the individual and the society.
The face has always been a privileged point of observation.
According to Cicero
“The face is a picture of the mind with the eyes as its interpreter.”
According to Dante
“Lo viso mostra lo color del cuore.” (the face shows the color of the heart).
In Totality and Infinity, Levinas sees the face as ‘a living presence’, a ‘source from which all meaning appears’. At the same time, it ‘resists possession’ and ‘refuses to be contained’.
In the darkness of the anti-covid mask, the face has been reset. It had long been under attack from the expansion of capitalism and in the name of one of the giants of surveillance capitalism there seemed to be its destiny: facebook.
The new face through face recognition devices is suitable across a vast range of industries for preventing fraud, fighting crime, improving customer experience, and securing public safety. Apple already uses software in its products that allow users to easily unlock devices, log in, and even make purchases and in a study of 2019 it was estimated that by 2024, the global facial recognition market would generate $7billion of revenue.
The three main application categories of facial recognition are security, health, and marketing.
Facial recognition is already used to detect and prevent crimes and terrorism and in police checks it is used at the border to compare the portrait on a digitized biometric passport with the holder’s face.
Significant advances have been made in the area of health. Through learning and face analysis it is possible to detect genetic diseases, track with extreme accuracy a patient’s use of medication, and support pain management procedures.
The most impactful change will probably take place in the field of marketing. Whereas traditional marketing analysis tools such as focus groups can be biased, Facial recognition allows to capture unfiltered emotional reactions obtaining inexpensive results at scale.
Through the study of attention, surprise, dislike, skepticism, doubt, expressiveness, enjoyment, and concentration, brands can better understand consumers’ emotions and design well-tuned marketing strategies.
The 6 effects of surveillance capitalism on the face
In a future with a fully established surveillance capitalism, the face will be at the center of the collection and analysis of data, and it will be reshaped according to its new function. The consequences will be many and disruptive. It follows a list:
- the symmetry between who observes a face and the observed face will disappear. In fact, If until now, the observer can also be observed, cameras and other detection tools will observe without being observed.
- the algorithms will detect in the face what is inaccessible to the individual, therefore, the individual will know about his own face less than the owner of the algorithms.
- the signs of the face will be no more translated into feelings from another individual in a human relationship, but turned into data by algorithms that supply third parties.
- the creation of masks and all the other ‘deceptive tools’ of the face intended to protect the individual from the others, will fail. According to André Malraux “Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.’ The algorithms will be able to see the soul of the individual through its concealment, its masks, and its grimaces, leaving the soul naked to digital strangers. Now Malraux would say: Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what the algorithm can see inside of him.
- being exposed to continuous analysis, the face will be branded by the market, but later on, will be the individual who will brand his face to please the indicators of the algorithms.
- the final result will be that the face, once the window of the soul, will be more like the market square of the user, where to give data from heart and mind to be ranked by the laws and the whims of the algorithms.