What Your Face Reveals

Hook Law News | Jul 12, 2022 | Hook Law Center

Originally written by Maureen E. Hook, Ph.D.

For centuries, many people have considered the face to be a window to the soul. It is after all what distinguishes one person from another. Noses, mouths, cheekbones or not vary from person to person. It’s what makes us interesting. Without these differences, how would directors cast heroes (handsome types like Ben Affleck) or villains (Richard Kiel in The Spy who Loved Me)?
So, it not surprising now that scientists are using the face to determine one’s long-term health prospects. Facial recognition technology has been around for awhile, as police use it to show how a suspect or a victim may have aged over time. This same technology may be employed by insurance companies or even doctors to make actuarial determinations. It also may be helpful to the individual, who upon hearing about his determination, might make lifestyle changes before the damage to his/her body is irreversible.
According to Jay Olshansky, a biodemographer at the University of Illinois-Chicago, “We know in the field of aging that some people tend to senesce, or grow older, more rapidly than others, and some more slowly. And we also know that the children of people who senesce more slowly tend to live longer than other people.” So what the computer would do would allow us to analyze each square inch of person’s face and compare it to others of the same age, race, and background. With this information, the scientist can get valuable information about diseases or problems early on. Improving life expectancy even by as little as 2.2 years could save over $7 trillion in entitlement programs like Medicare over 50 years, he says. What’s more, it could point the way toward interventions that could improve one’s quality of life over a longer period of time.
Dr. Olshansky has obtained the cooperation of Dr. Karl Ricanek, a professor of computer science the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. He is a pioneer in the field of facial recognition technology who advises the CIA and FBI. Together they have started a website called Face My Age. Anyone in the world can submit a photo. They are building a database from which to compare faces. For your photo to be accepted, you cannot have had plastic surgery, smile in the photo, or wear makeup. They hope to have amassed enough photos in the next 12 months to start making life span predictions. Their predictions will take into account race and gender. For example, people with lighter skin, tend to age faster than people with darker skin, because of differing melanin levels and reactions to sun exposure. Women’s faces tend to age faster than men’s because of differing amounts of fat and blood vessels.
Of course, there are always outliers, and people who look healthy who have undisclosed ailments like heart issues, can drop dead unexpectedly. However, in general, the face can tell us a lot about one’s health. Smokers tend of have wrinkles in the mouth area; those who drink alcohol to excess tend to have enlarged noses. Soon, our imprecise suspicions will have science to validate them.



Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, is there really such a thing as a kitten nursery and canine rehab?

Kit Kat: Yes, thank goodness! This is kind of a new concept, but the ASPCA is planning to open a new facility in the Upper East Side of New York City which will handle newborn kittens and canines who have been the victims of animal cruelty. You could say these fortunate animals are “Moving on Up!” like on the TV show, The Jeffersons, who moved to the Upper East Side.   Anyway, it’s really fantastic that this new facility will be able to handle up to 2,300 kittens and 60 canines who have been the victims of abuse. The Gloria Gurney Canine Annex for Recovery and Enrichment is the result of a collaboration between the ASPCA and the NYC Police Department. Prime breeding season for cats is April through September, so you can imagine the number of kittens that can be born in a single season. Once born, they need a lot of individual attention, almost like a human baby. The canines will come from seizures by the police department in animal cruelty cases.

Once again, the ASPCA is doing a wonderful job in looking after some of the most vulnerable among us. If you are looking for a worthy cause to donate to, please consider the ASPCA. (“Kitten Nursery & NYPD CARE Ward to Open,” ASPCA Action, Fall 2014, p. 5)

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