Using artificial intelligence, Argentine publicist Santiago Barros seeks to shed light on the children of parents who were taken from them during Argentina’s military dictatorship. Barros creates images of what these children might look like today using an app called Midjourney.
The images are uploaded to the Instagram account iabuelas, a combination of the Spanish words for artificial intelligence (IA) and grandmother (abuela), named after the activist group Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo. Barros explains that while we have seen photos of the disappeared, their children’s faces remain unknown.
During the 1976-1983 dictatorship, babies of political dissidents were systematically stolen and raised by families connected to or aligned with the regime. By combining photos of the disappeared parents from the Grandmothers’ public archive and utilizing the Midjourney app, Barros generates images of what the children would look like as adults today. The app presents two female and two male possibilities, from which Barros selects the most realistic image for each gender.
Barros emphasizes that the intention behind this project is not to replace the efforts of the Grandmothers group, who employ DNA testing to identify the missing grandchildren. Instead, his aim is to raise awareness among individuals over 46 who may have doubts about their origins and serve as a reminder of the decades spent by the grandmothers searching for their stolen children. According to the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, approximately 500 children were taken during the dictatorship, and only 133 have been located through genetic analysis.
While appreciative of Barros’ initiative, the Grandmothers emphasize that DNA testing remains the only infallible method to reunite these individuals with their families. The National Genetic Data Bank, established in 1987 thanks to the Grandmothers’ efforts, continues to carry out DNA testing. Barros utilizes photos from the Grandmothers’ archives as well as those provided by interested parties. Some observers have raised concerns about the images appearing standardized, while others have discovered striking resemblances to their blood relatives.
Barros shares the story of Matías Ayastuy, whose mother was kidnapped when she was pregnant. He provided photos of his disappeared parents, and the AI tool generated impressive results, closely resembling Matías and one of his cousins. Although no adult has initiated a formal identification process based on the images, the project has sparked interest and intrigue. The Instagram account for iabuelas specifies that it is an ‘unofficial artistic project,’ and acknowledges the potential inaccuracies of the results produced by artificial intelligence.
Pedro Sandoval, a grandson who was identified in 2006, initially supported Barros’ initiative but later found it imperfect due to its reliance on ‘standardized patterns’ of individuals with European traits. Barros acknowledges this potential bias but notes the strong European ancestry among many of the disappeared individuals in Argentina. The grandmothers caution that the AI campaign should not create false expectations for those who find similarities with the generated images. They urge individuals to view the results with some skepticism.
In conclusion, Santiago Barros employs artificial intelligence to create images of what the children of parents who went missing during Argentina’s military dictatorship might look like as adults today. These images are shared on the iabuelas Instagram account, raising awareness about the missing children and provoking thoughts on their possible appearance.
While Barros’ project does not replace DNA testing conducted by the National Genetic Data Bank, it serves as a reminder of the ongoing efforts by the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo to locate their stolen grandchildren. The project has received appreciation and caution, with some finding resemblances to their lost relatives and others questioning the standardization and accuracy of the AI-generated images.
Although the project has not yet led to any formal identifications, it has garnered attention and curiosity from the public. The iabuelas Instagram account clarifies that the project is an ‘unofficial artistic project’ and that the AI-generated results may not be entirely accurate. Pedro Sandoval, a grandson of disappearing parents himself, initially supported the initiative but later found it flawed due to its reliance on European features. Barros acknowledges this potential bias but justifies it by highlighting the strong European immigration history in Argentina.
The grandmothers, while appreciative of the project, caution against creating false expectations for individuals who find similarities with the AI-generated images. They stress that people are more than just a combination of their parents’ features, and the accuracy of foreign AI applications may vary.
The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo urge individuals to approach the results with caution. Barros acknowledges these concerns but highlights the project’s positive aspects, such as bringing attention to the disappearances and helping individuals find potential connections to their lost relatives.
In summary, Santiago Barros uses artificial intelligence and the Midjourney app to visualize the potential appearance of children whose parents disappeared during Argentina’s military dictatorship. The images are created by combining photographs of the missing parents found in the Grandmothers’ archive. Barros acknowledges the limitations and possible biases of the AI-generated images but notes the project’s value in raising awareness and promoting dialogue. Despite the absence of confirmed identifications thus far, the project has sparked interest and encouraged individuals to consider their origins more deeply.
By employing artificial intelligence, Argentine publicist Santiago Barros endeavors to shed light on the appearance of individuals who were separated from their parents during Argentina’s military dictatorship. Using the Midjourney app, Barros combines photographs of the missing parents to create images of what their children might look like as adults. These images are then shared on the Instagram account iabuelas, which aims to raise awareness about the missing children and the tireless search pursued by the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo.
Although the project does not aim to supplant the DNA testing carried out by the Grandmothers group, Barros hopes it will stimulate thoughts among individuals over 46 who may have doubts about their origins. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo estimate that around 500 children were taken from their parents during the dictatorship, with only 133 grandchildren located through DNA analysis. Barros appreciates the group’s efforts and seeks to remind people of the four decades these grandmothers have dedicated to reuniting these children with their families.
While Barros’ initiative has been met with appreciation, the Grandmothers underscore the importance of DNA testing conducted by the National Genetic Data Bank for accurate identification. Barros uses photos from the Grandmothers’ archive as well as material provided by interested parties. Feedback on the images has been mixed, with some expressing concerns about standardization, while others have been astonished by the resemblance to their lost relatives. Matías Ayastuy, for example, discovered a striking resemblance to one of his cousins when Barros combined images of his disappeared parents.
Despite no known instances of a person identifying themselves in one of the images and initiating a formal identification process, the project has generated significant interest. The iabuelas Instagram account clarifies that it is an ‘unofficial artistic project,’ and cautions that AI-generated results can be inaccurate. Pedro Sandoval, a grandson who was identified in 2006, initially embraced the initiative but later found it flawed due to its perceived reliance on standardized patterns that align with European features.
Barros acknowledges the potential bias in the AI system but highlights the strong European ancestry prevalent in Argentina due to immigration. The grandmothers appreciate the project as a campaign to raise awareness about the stolen and kidnapped children during the dictatorship.
However, they emphasize the need for caution, as AI simulations may not accurately represent the complex genetics of individuals. The Grandmothers highlight that accurate identifications can only be established through DNA testing performed by the National Genetic Data Bank.