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Terrible thoughts today: An AI system that claims to be able to accurately predict your political party using your face. Yes, it is.
Stanford University scholar Mihow Kosinski published his work (read here) in Nature earlier this week. The name Kosinskis may be remembered from having spearheaded a similar study in 2017 that claimed to accurately detect human sexuality based on how facial features match. At that time, civil rights groups and fellow scholars universally condemned the findings and called Kosinsky recklessly published.
According to the registration documents Kosinski submitted to the Center for Open Science for this new study, he began working on this latest study in September 2017, shortly after his initial anger began to disappear. Now, according to a research paper, Kosinsky has drawn a sample of the faces of over a million people from popular, unnamed dating sites used primarily in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. In addition to that sample, Kosinskis’ original filing shows how some of these faces come from a US-centric Facebook profile onboard by MyPersonality, a psychological testing app that Facebook cut off in 2018. Explains if it was pulled out.
In all cases, somewhere on that dating site, or somewhere on their Facebook profile, these users have been shown to be conservative or liberal.
These face batches were entered into an open source facial recognition algorithm, reducing each face to about 2,000 different data points, including core functionality. After entering enough data points from the photo into the algorithm, Kosinski can roughly predict a person’s political party from the photo, with a set of average points that can be tied to either a liberal face or a conservative face. It became an algorithm. 72% of the time on average.
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At least according to the treatise, it is difficult to define what exactly distinguishes a red face from a blue face. Kosinski sought to separate some facial features, such as the glasses worn in a particular photo and how the face was tilted toward the camera, which are predictors of a person’s political tendencies. I tested if it also works. Needless to say, none of these features achieved the goal as much as the black box of this algorithm.
That said, there were some things in common that Kosinsky explained in his notebook discussing the treatise. For example, a person who is self-aware to be liberal is more likely to face the camera directly and to express surprises in the photo. On the other hand, conservatives, in addition to being white, male, and old overall, have become more disgusted with photography than their liberals.
However, none of the author’s notes really cover why this study was done in the first place. As VentureBeat points out in his own research, the entire Kosinskis research treatise is based on the so-called pseudoscientific idea of physiological thinking, in which the entire personality of a person can be inferred by the way facial features are aligned. Algorithms that psychologists claim to classify based on their face whether someone is likely to be a bank robber, a political scientist, or a hard-headed Republican are actually more than a coincidence. I’ve said it’s much better.
Kosinskis notes do not refer to studies where many studies actually back up other people’s political views, personalities, sexual orientations, honesty, and many other traits. His point is trying to refute some of these findings, stating that he shows that he can make decisions from his own face. Perhaps that’s because all the evidence seems to point in the opposite direction.
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