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A Stanford professor thinks AI will be able to detect your politics, IQ, and sexuality — but not everyone agrees


Michal Kosinski

A Stanford University professor who went viral last week after publishing a study that suggested artificial intelligence (AI) can tell whether a person is gay or straight based on photos believes AI will also be to determine a person's IQ and their political leanings, simply by looking at their face.

Michal Kosinski is cited in The Guardian saying that sexual orientation is just one of the many things that AI will be able to determine in the coming years by looking at our faces.

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

  • a person's political beliefs
  • whether they have high IQs
  • whether they are predisposed to criminal behaviour
  • whether they have specific personality traits
  • and many other private, personal details

It's possible to infer a lot amount of information by looking at someone's face.

"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.

When AI-powered computer programmes are given access to photos of lots of faces they can learn how to distinguish certain traits.

Ex Machina1

Kosinski's "gaydar" AI, which has not been released to the public, was trained on a relatively small database of online dating photos. After processing the photos, it was able to correctly identify someone's sexual orientation 81% of the time for men and 74% of the time for women.

Two prominent LGBT groups, Glaad and the Human Rights Campaign, said an AI that can infer someone's sexual orientation was "dangerous" and dismissed the study as "junk science".

Samim Winiger, a Berlin-based AI researcher, told Business Insider that the "gaydar" research is "flawed on so many levels."

"For one, I'm sure there is heavy data-set bias at work here. But since this is all not open code/data (surprise surprise), It's hard to tell. Secondly, the research makes definitive, binary statements about human sexuality - negating a very large cultural component in the *spectrum* of human sexuality."

Winiger said that it's even more ludicrous to suggest that AI can tell a person's IQ from just photos.

Despite having obvious concerns about the research, Winiger said he wouldn't be surprised if the NSA buy into it given how much money is going into "predictive policing".

The social applications of facial detection technology are likely to raise complex ethical questions relating to privacy and the misuse of AI.

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