AI project imagines adult faces of children who disappeared during Argentina’s military dictatorship



BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — If a child was taken from their parents four decades ago during Argentina’s military dictatorship, what would that person look like today?

Argentine campaigner Santiago Barros is trying to answer this question Artificial intelligence To paint a picture of what children of parents who disappeared during the dictatorship might look like as adults.

Almost daily, Barros uploads these images to an Instagram account called iabuelas, a portmanteau in Spanish for artificial intelligence, or IA, and grandmother, or abuela — taken from the well-known activist group. Grandmother of the Plaza de Mayo That search for missing children.

“We’ve seen pictures of most of the missing, but we don’t have pictures of their children, the stolen children,” Barros told The Associated Press. “It struck me that these people don’t have a face.”

Argentina time Bloody dictatorship From 1976 to 1983, military officials carried out the systematic theft of children from political dissidents who were arrested or often executed and disposed of without a trace. Children are often raised by families associated with the dictatorship, or who are ideologically associated with it, as if they were their own.

Using an app called Midjourney, Barrows combined photos of missing fathers and mothers from the public archives of the Grandmothers website, creating images of what their children’s faces might look like as adults today. For each combination, the app shows two female and two male possibilities Barros then chose the figure of each gender that seemed most realistic.

The project does not intend to replace efforts led by grandmothers’ groups to identify grandchildren Through DNA testing. Instead, Barros said, the goal is to raise the conscience of those over 46 who may have doubts about their origins, and to serve as a reminder of the more than four decades grandmothers spent trying to identify these children.

Grandmothers in the Plaza de Mayo estimate that around 500 children were taken away from their parents during the dictatorship. The group traced 133 great-grandchildren through genetic analysis.

Groups praise Barros’ initiative as a way to raise awareness about children who were stolen or kidnapped during the dictatorship. But they warn that the only foolproof tool to link these people to their families is DNA testing carried out by the National Genetic Data Bank, whose creation they promoted in 1987.

In addition to working with photos from Grandma’s archives, Barrows uses photographic material provided by interested parties.

In some cases, those who accessed the iabuelas noticed a trend toward standardization in the images, which raised questions about their approximation of reality. But in others, families searching for missing relatives have been shocked by the facial resemblance of blood relatives.

Such was the case with Mathias Ayastuy, who contacted Barros and provided him with photos of his missing parents to see what a possible brother or sister would look like. His mother, Marta Bugnone, was kidnapped in 1977 while she was pregnant. By combining images of him and his father George Ayastu, the AI ​​tool was able to come up with some impressive results.

“A lot of people see the masculine image as I do. But what created something very, very powerful for me was the feminine. I found a very striking resemblance to one of my cousins,” says Ayastuy.

Since Barrows’ initiative was launched, there have so far been no known cases of an adult looking like one of his images and then initiating a formal process of identification.

All photos of the missing parents and their possible children were uploaded to the Instagram account with a note stating that the iabuelas were an “unofficial artistic project” and that the results could be falsely generated by artificial intelligence.

Pedro Sandoval, a grandson who was identified in 2006, initially accepted Barros’s initiative, but later decided it was incomplete because it seemed to rely too much on “standardized patterns” of people with European features. His mother, Liliana Fontana, and his father, Pedro Sandoval, are among the 30,000 missing persons counted by humanitarian agencies.

Barros acknowledged that the app could be skewed, but noted that many of the disappeared had European ancestry, in a country with strong European immigration.

As for the grandmothers, they don’t want the AI ​​campaign to create false expectations for those who find a match with the created images, so they urged to take it with a grain of salt.

“This is a campaign that shows simulations about the possible faces of the sons and daughters of the missing, but we know that people are more than 50 percent of each of their parents and foreign applications are set with their population genotypes,” the group said in a statement at the end of July. “Therefore, the results are correct. No.”


Victor Caivano, a video journalist for The Associated Press, contributed.



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