From the Ice Bucket Challenge to posting a #NoMakeUpSelfie, everybody loves a Facebook Challenge. The latest trend, the ’10 Year Challenge’, also has celebrities and the wider public hooked.
It’s all a harmless bit of fun, right? Well, one writer has now aired some intriguing suggestions about the dangers of taking part. Kate O’Neill, author of Tech Humanist, has seen her tweets gain a lot of attention over the last week.
She wondered if ’10 Year Challenge’ images could be an ideal opportunity for an artificial intelligence (AI) to be trained to understand the human aging process. Developing this understanding could then be used for positive outcomes, but also negative ones too.
Me 10 years ago: probably would have played along with the profile picture aging meme going around on Facebook and Instagram
Me now: ponders how all this data could be mined to train facial recognition algorithms on age progression and age recognition
— Kate O'Neill (@kateo) January 12, 2019
Her thread is now going viral and she has also written a follow-up article for WIRED. It examines her ‘half-joking’ suggestion that these images could be training facial recognition. She also goes into the ‘broader implications of human data at scale’.
What is the ’10 Year Challenge’?
First thing’s first, what is the ’10 Year Challenge’ all about? Basically, it involves people sharing pictures of themselves from now and ten years ago. It’s as straightforward as that.
The trend has taken off on both Twitter and Instagram too. Usually posts are combined with tags like #10YearChallenge and #HowHardDidPubertyHitYou. The aim is to highlight to your friends and followers exactly how much you have changed, or not in some cases.
View this post on Instagram
10 year challenge. I’d like to thank my stylist, my hairdresser and the person that told me to close my mouth when being photographed on a red carpet. Only thing that is the same is that I’m still wearing those blue pants in the photo on the right. I think that’s why I look so concerned. #10yearchallenge #redcarpet #hotmess #fashionista
A post shared by Jack Whitehall (@jackwhitehall) on
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) January 15, 2019
Who has taken part in the ‘10 Year Challenge’?
Make no mistake, this is a challenge which has struck a chord with social media users all across the planet. Hollywood stars, sporting icons and even parodies of fictional characters have all got involved.
It has also been used by figures like Caitlyn Jenner to share important messages about being oneself. Institutions like Green Peace have also used the trend to publicise issues around climate change.
Take a look at some of the most popular posts – including an eyebrow raiser from Piers Morgan.
— Brie Larson (@brielarson) January 15, 2019
View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Janet Jackson (@janetjackson) on
But how can this data be used?
So, to go back to O’Neill’s tweets, this data could be used for good or evil. You could simply take all of these before and after images and put them into an AI model. Once an understanding of the aging process is grasped, data could be used in a variety of ways.
The Mirror has relayed suggestions that the police could use the resulting algorithm to age photos of missing people. It could also be utilised to catch criminals who have evaded arrest. However, the data could also be used by cosmetic companies to target users visibly aging quicker than hoped.
It is vital to point out that there’s no suggestion that Facebook (or any other social media platform) is using the images in this way. It is also understood that Facebook was not behind the craze in the first place.
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