The Signs of Ageing

While walking up the street the other day I was thinking of interesting ways to present some of the more uncomfortable effects of privacy invasion on our everyday lives. That morning I had been at the hospital and thought I caught someone lying to the doctor about their age (I have the occasional problem with trente and quarante in French). I wasn’t right, but it did remind me of how protective many people are of their age.

This is actually a perfect example of how the extrapolations made about us by computers are on the one hand, fuzzy, and on the other touch on our private lives. How would you feel if you went to a bar and your age popped up on a sign for all to see and you were either let into the bar, or not, based on that age. What if a doctor no longer asked you your age but instead wrote down what the computer said or when going to your birthday party you didn’t know what age the others would think you were. Perhaps you were a little stressed and under the weather and they would be celebrating your fiftieth instead of your forty seventh. That has got to hurt.

Just to push the point home to those who are sitting there thinking, “yeah, doesn’t really bother me..” how about age of consent? How many children are being judged to be over eighteen because someone associated a credit card with their account? What about if a child is on an online service such as Facebook? They would then be judged to be thirteen, the start of many moral restrictions being lifted in society.

Weirdly, we get judged on values like our age everyday when using the Internet. We just don’t get to see it because we have no reference point for what other people are seeing and it all runs in the background. To promote privacy, it might be a good idea to bring the actuality of those unseen judgements home to people by placing signs that use facial recognition to estimate and display our age for all to see. How do we feel about the judgements when everyone can see them?

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