Can AI detect sexual and political orientation from facial images?

By : |September 12, 2017 0

Jane Austen often wrote about prejudices arising from first impressions. Switch to 21st century: she might just be right. Looks like humans might get it wrong, but, AI can be accurate with scanning faces and deducing qualities like IQ or even sexual orientation.

Don’t you believe us? Have a look at the report by Michal Kosinski- a Stanford professor and Yilun Wang titled ‘Deep neural networks are more accurate than humans at detecting sexual orientation from facial images.’

The report says faces contain much more information about sexual orientation that can be perceived and interpreted by the human brain. They used deep neural networks to extract features from 35,326 facial images. Guess what? In a given single facial image, a classifier could correctly distinguish between gay and heterosexual men in 81% of cases, and in 74% of cases for women.

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On the other hand, ‘humans’ achieved much lower accuracy: 61% for men and 54% for women. The accuracy of the algorithm increased to 91% and 83%, respectively, given five facial images per person. The research included both fixed (e.g., nose shape) and transient facial features, for example, grooming style.

Kosinski says, “AI can do many things apart from the prediction of sexual orientation and will determine the future in the coming years by just looking at our faces.”

The prediction model that aimed at gender alone detected gay males with 57% accuracy and gay females with 58% accuracy. Furthermore, when presented with a pair of participants, one gay and one straight, the algorithm could correctly distinguish between them 91% of the time for men and 83% of the time for women.

Similarly, the results were highly accurate in case of political orientation as well. The professor said, the AI would perform best for people who are far to the right or left and would be less effective for the large population of voters in the middle. “A high conservative score … would be a very reliable prediction that this guy is conservative.” “The face is an observable proxy for a wide range of factors, like your life history, your development factors, whether you’re healthy,” Kosinski reportedly said.

He predicts that self-learning algorithms with human characteristics will also be able to identify:

A. A person’s political beliefs

B. Whether they have high IQs

C. Whether they are predisposed to criminal behavior

D. Whether they have specific personality traits

E. And many other private, personal details

Even with AI that makes highly accurate predictions, there is also still a percentage of predictions that will be incorrect. Talking about the loopholes in their own report, they say, “Our work is limited in many ways: we only looked at white people who self-reported to be gay or straight.” In contrast, human judges were not much more accurate than random guesses. Hence, Yilun Wang and Michal Kosinski believe that this is yet another example of artificial intelligence (AI) outperforming humans.

However, the authors accept that the entire study is highly disturbing because of the sensitivity of the information that is at stake. Will we feel safe if AI can detect something as intimate as sexual or political orientation from people’s faces?    

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