How Normal Am I? is an interactive documentary developed by Timjen Schep which shows how facial recognition algorithms are used to judge people. By taking a test, the documentary analyses and rates your face in terms of age, beauty, and gender. It also assesses your emotional state and estimates your BMI and life expectancy.
I gave it a try a few months ago and it gave me a digital 'fingerprint' of my face, it judged how engaged I was by telling me that I switched to another tab 114 times and it told me that my dominant expression was 'sad' - little wonder because it also informed me that my life expectancy is 81 years old.
Do I really want to be told how many more years, or few years, I've got left?
It reminds me of a great conversation I had on the Nervous Habits podcast with host Ricky Rosen. I was explaining how biomarkers would be used alongside, or as substitutes to, chronological age. We might see cholesterol levels as a biomarker for heart disease or BMI for diabetes, and if we are able to have a big enough basket of biomarkers with common agreement, then we might be tempted to categorise people by this kind of 'biological' age rather than by chronological age.
We all know people of the same age who seem at completely different extremes of the healthy living continuum. But to start to do away with any reference to your actual date of birth, and chronology, to be replaced with a data-based model of your age that reflects longevity, would be a new approach. And let's face it, if one can transition from one gender to another, and as many believe transcend one's biological sex, why wouldn't we then want to transcend our biological age?
It may well be that the fitbit or Apple watch of the future will not be tracking how many steps you still need to do that day, but how many healthy days you may have left given the exact diet of exercise and nutrition you have afforded yourself that week. It's the shift from tech for tracking you, to diagnosing you, and even to prognosticating you - by estimating your life expectancy. How many healthy years might I have left if I reach for that Mars Bar? Do I really want to know? If I allow you to notify me of this analysis, do I get a small reduction on my health insurance? Does my technological self really need a chronological age at all?
The developer of How Normal Am I has also created AreYouYou.eu where you can try to fool a face recognition system. It turns out that I am 86% me. That's good... I think. But then again, who am I to judge?