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Machines Better at “Gaydar” Than Humans!

express Magazine
Written by express Magazine

Facial recognition algorithm which can identify gay men and women has worrying ethical and potentially dangerous applications.


A new study from Stanford University, first published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and first reported in the Economist found that a computer algorithm could correctly distinguish between gay and straight men 81% of the time, and 74% for women. The figures increased still further when the software was given multiple images of each person – it then correctly identified their sexual orientation 91% of the time for men and 83% of the time for women.

Human judges performed much worse than the algorithm, accurately identifying orientation only 61% of the time for men and 54% for women.

The study’s authors suggest that the findings provide “strong support” for the theory that sexual orientation stems from exposure to certain hormones before birth, meaning people are born gay and being queer is not a choice.

The study has limits however in that non-Europeans were not included and there was no consideration of transgender or bisexual people.

The authors also noted that artificial intelligence could be used to explore links between facial features and a range of other phenomena such as political views, personality and psychological conditions. The implications for artificial intelligence are vast and potentially alarming – imagine governments using the technology to out LGBT+ people in societies where being gay is illegal for instance.

One of the authors of the study, Michal Kosinski is known for his work with Cambridge University on psychometric profiling, including using Facebook data to make conclusions about personality.

Tricky ethical issues yet to be tackled here!

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express Magazine

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