What TSA Can Remind Us About Being Human

by | Feb 8, 2024

I walked up to the TSA desk this morning and realized I might be in trouble. JAX is becoming technologically savvy, and they’ve installed face-scanning machines at security. For those unfamiliar, you walk up, slide your license into one machine, and then look directly into a camera lens. Said camera takes a photo, the computer analyzes the images in seconds. Onward! You’re good to go.

That is unless your DMV photo is overexposed and your face can’t be recognized by a computer. I learned this on my last flight of the year last year. It requires me to insert my license into the machine approximately three to fifteen times to see if that will work. While I’m shoveling my license into the machine, the camera is taking pictures of me like I’m Taylor and Travis post-Superbowl–paparazzi-like.  Really, I’m just trying to board a plane. 

A supervisor then gets called over, same dances with him. Inserting, re-inserting.  More pictures. Then the supervisor barks that my license picture is not OK. While his point is valid, I’ve got two subpoints. First, human TSA agents have checked that license for over two years, and they didn’t have a problem with it. Second, I am not quality control for the DMV. Why would they distribute such a crappy license? (Wrong question! We will not be answering questions about why the DMV does what it does.)

This morning, as I approached TSA and spied the machines, I thought, “Here we go.” I inserted. I modeled. “Chin up! Stand back! Eyes up!” Knowing it was an exercise in futility. The supervisor got called over. I said, “It’s the picture–it’s overexposed. But it’s me.” 

They looked at the screen with my just-captured image on it. They looked at my license. They looked again. They were studying it like their initials were CSI, not TSA.

They did not look at me. 

Finally, they asked if I had any other picture ID. “Passport is in the mail,” I responded. “However, I have my face.” 

They appeared to be a little confused. I promise my tone was sincere and genuine as I try not to hassle TSA agents. I said, “Look, you can see, it’s me.” 

While the picture IS overexposed, if you look with your human eyes, you can tell it’s me. 

You just have to look. You have to step away from the screen and look at the human standing in front of you. 

You can be stoked about technology and the efficiencies and safety it can bring. 

You can embrace–and be a bit wary of–AI and all the possibilities it can open up. 

You can be concerned about technology taking over your job. 

The thing is, it always starts with the human. 

The human that’s making the machine. 

The human that’s using the machine. 

We have to look. We have to look up at the faces in front of us to see what they’re saying, not what the computer screen says about them. 

We still have to be human. 

The default setting in work, in life, in technology: humans first. Think like a human. Show up like a human. Pay attention to the human. That’s what’s going to make this all work. What 


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