Hong Kong anti-litter campaign swipes DNA from trash, uses it to create mugshots of suspected litterers


Snapshot DNA phenotyping to produce a sketch of each litterer’s face based on the DNA sample found on the trash.

To be clear, this is a wholly fictional thing with zero real-world degree of accuracy, such that any “reproductions shaped according to the genetic data” is unlikely to actually look like the people who supply the genetic data, right?


It would be so much creepier if the litterers could be easily identified and then anti-litter mobs took the law into their own hands.

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The genetic reconstruction of the appearance is not reliable yet, albeit a ballpark figure can be acquired.

However, if combined with a database of DNA profiles, and could be used to match to actual person, such things could get pretty bad…

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Or they just generated some random CG-faces and made up a really good Bullshit story for their submission at the next Cannes Lions awards.


I could see some HS-level (or less) educated person saying to myself “I don’t want my face up there, I better not litter”.

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Agreed. Honestly it would be pretty stupid of them if they actually bothered to go through the extra effort of finding and analyzing DNA.


Unless they wanted to try if it could work.

Well, if the gov can just get the national DNA bank going, they could just run the sample and bring up the persons mug shot. (per shaddack)

Litter-bugs beware!

but seriously, why aren’t there places to dump garbage for free, I’m talk’s dumpsters, not just cans, same thing with old electronic devices.

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Are we sure this isn’t some sort of guerrilla marketing for a new season of Black Mirror?

And, by creepier, you mean awesome, right?

Can DNA actually tell you much about a person’s age? I gather there’s some damage that occurs as you get older, but how much could you predict from that, and would it go into the the composite?

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well, that’s putting it quite generously. we really don’t have the technology or even theoretical understanding yet to map genes to the actual physical features required to recognize someone, even approximately.

the composite is even sketchier. basically, one thing we can do is match ancestral groups; so at best someone will have relatively “pure” genetic markers for [insert ethnicity], and the output would then be the average member of [insert ethnicity]. you can call that a “ballpark figure” if you want, but it’s sort of like saying that phrenology was a legitimate first shot at neuroscience.

I looked it up (“face reconstruction from dna”, a trivial query), and, well, genetic phenotyping is apparently a bit better developed than I expected it to be.

More here, including three examples of real vs inferred-from-DNA faces.

mmm. i’m sure i don’t have to tell you not to believe everything you read about technology that’s “right around the corner”…

in fact if you read those articles carefully, you’ll see that apart from what’s inferrable from ancestry (and a very few other catch-as-catch-can traits which happen to be easy to infer), the rest is quite speculative. of course we’ll get there eventually, but there are quite a few breakthroughs standing in the way. don’t be too impressed by three cherry-picked examples of “inferred-from-DNA” faces.

Yes, I am aware of that. Impressive what can be already done, isn’t it?

(shrug) I guess. It mostly boils down to statistical correlations, so how impressive it is depends a lot on context. Maybe I’m just feeling pessimistic today.

Sorry, I thought you were disagreeing with me earlier.

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