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"the [science fiction] writer should be able to convince the reader (and himself) that the wonders he is describing really can come true...and that gets tricky when you take a good, hard look at the world around you."
- Frederik Pohl

Separated At Birth Database  
  Missing persons database uses similarity to famous people.  

What is the best way to ask people if they've seen a missing person?

"Tommy Lee Jones," the black man said... "You look like him.."

"Who?"

"Was an actor, man... You Rydell. Ran you on Separated at Birth."

Separated at Birth was a police program you used in missing persons cases. You scanned a photo of the person you wanted, got back the names of half a dozen celebrities who looked vaguely like th subject, then went around asking people if they'd seen anybody lately who reminded them of A,B,C... The weird thing was, it worked better than just showing them a picture of the subject. The instructor at the Academy in Knoxville had told Rydell's class that that was because it tapped into the part of the brain that kept track of celebrities.

From Virtual Light, by William Gibson.
Published by Bantam in 1993
Additional resources -

As far as I know, there is no existing example of this idea in use by police agencies. However, there is a site called MyHeritage Face Recognition that will allow you to upload a face and find out which celebrity you might resemble.

I tried it with a picture of Tommy Lee Jones - and the site correctly recognized the actor. I then picked at random a picture of Jesse James, the famous 19th century American outlaw. MyHeritage thinks that he closely resembles Alan Turing, the 20th century mathematician.

Thanks to John for pointing this one out.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Virtual Light
  More Ideas and Technology by William Gibson
  Tech news articles related to Virtual Light
  Tech news articles related to works by William Gibson

Separated At Birth Database-related news articles:
  - Lookalike 'Wanted' Leaflet Features Harry Potter Actor

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