2017-07-08 Sat


Again, on the Condominium Construction in Toronto.

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This lovely building is titled “95 Woods Street”, and I took a photo of the balconies on the west side. Folks here get to sit on the balcony (with a cup of tea or a bowl (or better yet, a two-litres tub) of Chapman’s ice cream) of a late afternoon.

The ivy soaks up the sunshine and crawls up the building, giving it a collegiate air.

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Now, directly across the little driveway that leads to parking, is a condominium construction site. This will be another monster of about seventy floors, and it will block out the sunshine from the west and the sunshine from the south.

The people on the west side of 95 Woods street are having their last summer of sunshine.

Clear Thinking

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Forget about the Drug Lord aspect. Think only about Face Identification.

Humans have evolved to be excellent at face recognition. Babies do it at, oh, say three days old. (I think it is three days. I’d have to dig out all my copies of books written by Steven Oinker to get the correct figure). It’s pretty evident that babies are very good at recognizing human faces.

You have probably shared that frisson of excitement at spotting a good friend in a crowd, merely by the brief view of about one half of the back of their head as they move through a throng a hundred feet away. We humans are that good at recognizing humans we know.

Sometimes all it takes is a gait; without my long-distance glasses people are little more than stick-figures, but I can recognize you by the way you walk, even though we haven’t been near each other for twenty years.

A large part of our brain is given over to face recognition. It could be argued that we are better at face-recognition than at (a) manipulating objects with our hands or (b) manipulating language (again, go read Steven Pinker).

But now computer technology has arrived at the point where it can algorithmically scan a face from any angle and match it to a face on a database.

On top of that, technology can scan our irises for tell-tale patterns, the modern day equivalent of fingerprints.

Simple Humans, such as I, are easily fooled by a wig, or spectacles, or the lack thereof. Technology not so much.

Technology can discard superficial (sounds like “super” and “facial”, doesn’t it!) features and focus on the distances between eyes, nose and mouth, features which are difficult to re-position. (Now I think about it, “discard” is close to “dis-scarred”).

So where does that leave us?

Technology has by now almost certainly eclipsed the human brain in face recognition.

Don’t forget the stupendous power of computers to store images and co-ordinates in a massive database and match them in milliseconds.

Humans evolved to live in groups of about 300 other humans. We evolved to store about 300 images in our memory. Those 300 images represented people well-known to us, and therefore unlikely to cause us harm. Everyone else, every one who “Looked Different” was a potential enemy.