NPF: DAZZLING

Posted in No Politics Friday on January 6th, 2012 by Ed

During World War I, the British experimented with something called dazzle camouflage, a manner of painting ships so that they might be more difficult for German u-boats to torpedo or otherwise molest. The theory behind it was quite simple: when the image of a ship set against a featureless background like the open ocean is broken up by random, jagged lines, it becomes difficult or impossible for the human eye to determine the ship's size, direction of travel, and orientation. This example (HMS Argus, 1917) shows that the technique didn't exactly make a ship less visible, but imagine watching it through a periscope from a great distance and the effect becomes clear.


"Schiesse! Das crazyboot!"

While I've always found it interesting and with a strange kind of aesthetic appeal, dazzle paint disappeared with the development of things like radar and long range aircraft. But apparently there is a new application for this very old idea: dazzle makeup as a means of subverting that incredibly creepy facial recognition software that is quickly and quietly becoming omnipresent. Artist Adam Harvey's project, CV Dazzle, is more interested in making an artistic statement than a political one, but the practical application of this kind of personal fashion is obvious.

Do they look a tad silly? Of course. It is the concept that is compelling, though, not necessarily the fashion-forwardness of the results. Facial recognition relies on concepts like symmetry and ratios among features, and without these even sophisticated technology is of limited effectiveness at identifying faces.

So, if we all break up our faces with bizarre hair and makeup tricks, that should buy us a couple more years until SkyNet's capabilities are updated to defeat our attempts to deceive it.