A.I. Surveillance, Are We Ready?

What if with A.I. Surveillance we could find every missing person? There are more than 600,000 persons reported missing in the United States each year.  That’s about 2,000 per day.  Many of those persons are found or identified. But tens of thousands remain missing for more than a year. About 4,400 unidentified bodies are discovered each year in the U.S. Approximately 1,000 remain unidentified after one year. 

B&W image of an eye with a person's head in the center of it. What if with AI Surveillance we could find every missing person?

As appalling as those number are, the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates more than 800,000 children are reported missing each year. They know this estimate is low because of under reporting and lack of statistics in many countries. 

The Future is Near

According to Garner’s Top Ten Tech Predictions for 2019 on and beyond () “By 2023, there will be an 80 percent reduction in missing people in mature markets compared with 2018 due to AI face recognition.”

Is this good new or bad? Do you envision a world of the Minority Report or The Matrix?

Image of a laptop screen with vertical strips of green data. What if with AI Surveillance we could find every missing person?

How Good is A.I.?

Before you get too freaked out, let’s look at what level this A.I. Might function.

Things to Consider

The second two, A.G.I. And A.S.I, don’t exist. So let’s assume the facial recognition A.I. is only able to be as competent but faster than a human at facial recognition. 

Presumably, A.I. Surveillance with facial recognition will be more accurate and find missing children and wandering dementia patients faster. And that can only be a good thing, right?

But what about in the countries that don’t have the tech? Heck, what about the states and counties in the U.S. Alone, that don’t have that tech? Will we use facial recognition drones? Or supply free tech to those less fortunate?

What if the missing person wants to remain missing? Will we have more people “living off the grid?” 

What if we use facial recognition A.I. for crime solving? That would be good, wouldn’t it? However, is it still good if it’s identifying jaywalkers or parking rules violators?

Is One Life Worth A.I. Surveillance?

To my heart and mind, even one missing child is too many. Even one dementia patient lost is too many. A.I. Surveillance with facial recognition could save many with the potential to save hundreds of thousands. And if it solves crime…bonus. But the ethics and the reach of this program remain things that need consideration. Three years isn’t very long.

What concerns do you have about A.I. Surveillance? 


  1. It’s unquestionably a good thing to solve heinous crimes, or find dementia patients who’ve wandered off, or missing children. But most people don’t like the idea of their every move being tracked. The connectivity and black boxes in our cars is bad enough, though those things have good uses too. Even grocery store loyalty cards have their downsides – how long will it be before health insurance becomes more expensive for those who buy soda pop and ice cream every week? It always comes down to where you draw the line.

    1. Oh boy, Jennette, you targeted the key point: Where do you draw the line? That’s the question and it doesn’t have an easy answer. My fear is that because it’s not easy, we’ll keep avoiding the question and end up in a society closer to Minority Report than I’d like.

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