In the article, “The Detectives who Never Forget a Face,” Patrick Keefe presents the case of facial recognition as being on a spectrum rather than the previous assumption that few people in the world could not recognize faces while the majority others had a similar ability to do so. Based off of research conducted at Harvard that was intended to show that some people had facial blindness, it was determined that some participants had an exceptional ability that was more like a computer program than what most would consider to be an innate ability. Using the Cambridge Face Memory Test, it has been determined that there are a wide range abilities for recognizing faces and that there are many potential positive implications for testing individuals who work in public arenas such as law enforcement, security, and government positions. The author provides examples that would have greatly benefited from implementing this test such as airport security and passport approvals. These examples served to strengthen the author’s claim that this capability should not remain a novelty in research but rather should be addressed as a possible next phase of forensic science.

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The primary focus of the examples were based in London where a specialized branch of law enforcement has been recognized for the officers’ abilities to recognize faces. Providing information about the highlights of the team’s successes, the author pays close attention to the safeguards that are in place. The team members peer review each identified suspect in order to make certain that they are correct. Noting that the officers sometimes make mistakes, the author points out that computer programs also make mistakes and that the CCTV can only capture an image but not a criminal if no one can identify them from the recording. Such strong claims make the article clearly in favor of furthering facial recognition as a human tool in forensic science.

The article was clearly written and drew the reader’s attention immediately with a strong example of using the facial recognition abilities to stop a predator on the public transit. The author addressed the concerns about the CCTV and quickly acknowledged that the images themselves were not conclusive without an identifier and that most of the time the images could not produce a suspect. While the CCTV were intended to deter crime, this knowledge became clear in the city and therefore the cameras were only there to record events but not to prosecute offenders. This example showed that the technology could not do what human beings could do especially one’s with this special ability. By using this, and other examples, the author was able to make the distinction between man and machines to be that in favor of man.

While the author explained numerous scientific terms and concepts, the overall purpose of the article was not revealed until near the conclusion. The author intended for the audience to recognize that this ability may be more prevalent than we may believe just as facial blindness has been found in far more people. It is not possible to know unless individuals are tested and the test for this is far less expensive than continuously trying to improve computerized algorithms to do the same thing with less accuracy. As with many areas of study, mankind tends to emphasize the abilities of the machines and justify this expense rather than to pay individuals or recognize a person’s ability as being special. Machines alone could not catch the predator on the public transit. Bringing back a focus on the human element could aid in the progress of many fields including law enforcement.

  • Keefe, Patrick. “The Detectives who Never Forget a Face.” Letters from London. The New Yorker. 22 Aug 2016. Web. 29 Oct 2016.