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Jackman lecture focuses on military use of facial recognition

Submitted on Friday, February 22, 2019

Photo by Harry Heuts for Maastricht University

Lucy Suchman, a globally renowned expert in human computer interaction whose recent work explores the issues raised by the growing use of facial recognition technologies, will deliver this year’s Jackman Humanities Institute marquee lecture entitled Apparatuses of Recognition.

Suchman, who is professor of the Anthropology of Science and Technology at Lancaster University and previously worked as the Principal Scientist at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, will delve into the story of how a group of activist employees at Google successfully persuaded their employer not to renew a U.S. Defense Department contract for a drone program known as Project Maven. Defenders of the program, an initiative to automate the analysis of drone video surveillance footage, claimed it would enable more accurate recognition of legitimate targets and, as a result, spare the lives of noncombatants.

Project Maven opponents, including Professor Suchman, argue that the demonstrated imprecision of the processes in question is more than sufficient to condemn the goal of rendering targeted killing more efficient.

In keeping with the Jackman Humanities Institute’s 2018/19 annual theme of Reading Faces – Reading Minds, Professor Suchman will trace the connecting threads of what she calls apparatuses of recognition and offer her thoughts on how their work can be interrupted as was done, at least partly, in the case of Project Maven.

“There couldn’t be a better person to deliver this lecture than Lucy Suchman,” says Wendy Duff, Dean of the Faculty of Information, which is hosting this year’s lecture. “With her background in AI, I am sure she will have many insights into Jackman’s very topical theme.”

Suchman’s lecture, which will take place on April 22, will be followed by a reception at the Faculty of Information. In addition, Professor Suchman will participate in separate talks with Master’s and PhD students. This year’s Art x Bissell exhibition — by Museum Studies students and entitled Reading Faces – Reading Minds: Intersections between Art and Artificial Intelligence — will also  launch at the reception. Details and registration here

For those who can’t make the marquee event, Professor Suchman will be meeting with students on the following day, Tuesday April 23rd. More information here

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