There has been a brief trend across Facebook with people sharing two images of themselves - a current image, and an image from 10 years ago.
Some people got wise to this one fairly quickly and highlighted the risk that you might just be helping train facial recognition software.
Imagine that you wanted to train a facial recognition algorithm on age-related characteristics and, more specifically, on age progression (e.g., how people are likely to look as they get older). Ideally, you'd want a broad and rigorous dataset with lots of people's pictures. It would help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart—say, 10 years.
Well, here is the good news. You've already been training artificial intelligence (AI) for up to ten years. One of the earliest instances was the "captcha" process which was designed (in part), to hamper technical attacks by bots, hackers and other bad actors. Over the years, a variety of these captcha processes and variants developed, albeit for increasingly different purposes.
CAPTCHA = Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart
Some examples over the past ten years:
Around 2009, Google got involved and started using the captcha process. Users encountering the captcha process were unsuspectingly training computers to recognise unclear text scanned in from newspapers and books. A computers ability to read your handwritten text also has you to thank for the training you've provided.
While used mostly for security reasons, CAPTCHAs also serve as a benchmark task for artificial intelligence technologies. According to an article by Ahn, Blum and Langford, any program that passes the tests generated by a CAPTCHA can be used to solve a hard unsolved AI problem.
More recent captcha deployments have been used to train driver-less car. You may have been shown images of cars, traffic lights, shops and street signs to differentiate and select from. Some of these images might be a single image divided into 9 - 16 panels, or 9 separate images. And while the security rationale still exists somewhat, the main purpose is to get you to spend around 10 seconds to train a computer - one that will likely take your job before the next 10 years.
Your selections are then compiled, compared with other responses that enable computer training. AI software programs can be tested for accuracy, consistency and learning ability against the human response set.
The process is continuously advancing and now you are being unwittingly invited through these meme games to invest even more time training the AI computers. The ten year challenge meme invites users to post a photo of themselves 10 years apart. This helps provide a clear point of reference for the technology to analyse and re-calibrate facial detection. Even if you don't participate, or if you post bogus pictures, does not matter. Providing enough people participate randomly (~around 3,000+), the data set gathered will be sufficient to use for computer analysis and testing purposes.
In fact, your bogus pictures are incredibly useful as well. Computers need to learn irrelevant data sets as much as they need correct results.
Here is a summary of what to expect next in the world of AI training (some of which is already happening):
Every month, AI systems are improving rapidly. They now perform millions of tasks that humans are either ineffective at performing or are too slow. Ultimately, AI systems will run your life for you, and eventually (if they have not already) will make your job redundant.
Thanks for your help to train computers!
More reads and references: