Facial reconstructions by AIs present major challenges

Artificial intelligence is currently at the origin of many controversies, and everything about it is still very uncertain. Reproduction or copying of a photograph or artwork can cause great frustration for artists. But when it affects the world of research, it makes a splash on the scientific side. At the heart of the current debate is the reconstruction of old faces.

Issues related to the uncontrolled use of artificial intelligence (AI) continue to be at the center of many articles on the Internet. It is criticized in the archaeological world, especially when used to whimsically recreate ancient faces. In recent years, many Internet users have offered artistic reconstructions of facial features on the Internet. Faces of historical people or mummies of the world in the program. If these works are purely works of fiction, then entering this field of artificial intelligence worries the research world.

This is the case recently with a series of faces on the Twitter social network that offered interpretations of ancient characters created by artificial intelligence. Below is an artificial intelligence facial reconstruction of a Guanche mummy preserved in Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Facial reconstruction requires method

A major criticism of voluntary artificial face reconstructions or artificial intelligence is the complete lack of method. Although this is for recreational purposes, it creates wider problems. As regularly explained in Futura, facial reconstruction efforts are the subject of serious scientific publications. This gives a rigorous framework as well as a professional resonance to these proposals based on specific elements. Ideally, skulls or corpses are kept mummified. In addition, these publications open up a field of possibilities in terms of debates among researchers. The applied methods are scientific and quantitative to obtain the first main result. Therefore, it is impossible to invent an adjective without taking this information into account. Below is the scientific proposal of the Guanche mummy.

Science subject to artistic suggestions

Within the scientific method, certain elements will still be at the discretion of the artist or the team responsible for facial reconstruction. If the face is able to restore its volume, some elements such as facial expressions, wrinkles, hair density and even the size of the lips cannot be determined 100%. And without DNA analysis, it is the texture and color of the hair and eyes to interpret. Thus, even in a work that respects the scientific method, it is impossible to accurately portray long-dead people. And as in the court world, these are portraits that are not equal to a photograph of a person, but can approach reality. But in the explanation of the method, the subjective parts are often written in black and white, which allows the reader to better understand the stages and brakes of such work.

Slippery slope

Another major problem with facial reconstruction is that, without a scientific method and without control, it offers misaligned, misleading elements to the reconstructed individuals. This can cause significant repercussions, especially in relation to indigenous peoples, whose presence in the territories is a matter of real identity and political issues. The example of the Guanche mummy is represented in the AI ​​as Western, which is the opposite of the scientific conclusion, because the Guanche is of Berber origin. Moreover, the topic of facial reconstructions is not insignificant and eventually became the topic of all morning conferences. World Congress of Mummy Studies in Bolzano Around the world mummies in September 2022. Question about reconstruction: ” We know how to do it, but should we? This is a question that borders on the field of ethics.

Fictional works that try to give an old so-called face play with the scientific codes of before/after facial reconstruction with a wide audience who do not know the methods and can easily think that the result is a faithful view of a historical figure. An exciting phenomenon in science and higher stakes than simple recreational activities. However, well-used and well-crafted scientific facial reconstruction humanizes the proposition that individuals approach History, and this has its value in forensics.

It is necessary to be wary of Internet users who can better understand all these offers of realistic or imaginary figures that flourish on the Internet in order to distinguish the real from the false.

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