How can someone get gay

Face recognition should be able to predict whether someone is gay

Researcher Michal Kosinski made headlines long before the data scandal surrounding the analytics company Cambridge Analytica became known. As early as 2016, the professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University warned about everything that is possible with big data.

Predictable sexuality

Now the professor claims in a controversial work that algorithms in facial recognition can distinguish whether someone is heterosexual or homosexual. You can also see what emotions someone is feeling, what IQ they have and whether they are predisposed to commit a crime. He even claims in an unpublished paper that he recognizes whether someone is a US Republican or a Democrat - and mistakes are made here if someone has a beard or not.

Detected by chance

But it was never his plan to show that artificial intelligence can predict sexuality, as he tells the Guardian. He was more likely to stumble upon the discovery when he looked at profiles on Facebook and noticed that introverts and extroverts had different faces. The practice of predicting a person's personality from their face has been common for centuries. Deeply racist resentments were often spread under the name "Physiognomy" - for example, that criminals always look like "gorillas". Kosinski, on the other hand, sees physiognomy as a mixture of superstition and racism - instead, one resorts to neural networks. With 35,326 photos it was possible to predict 81 percent of men and 74 percent of women whether they are gay, lesbian or straight. When the AI ​​was shown five photos side by side, 91 percent of men and 83 percent of women were able to predict sexuality. 61 percent of men and 54 percent of women would be able to make such predictions.

Dangerous technology in the hands of authoritarian governments

Kosinski experienced a shit storm for these results - today he calls it the "paradox" that arises when people are warned about dangerous technologies. He hadn't planned to publish the results until a colleague pointed out to him whether he could live with himself if one day an authoritarian one. Government would employ such methods.

Kosinski met the Russian cabinet

Before Kosinski published the results, he met Putin's cabinet last year near Moscow, Russia. Those present, including Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Viktorovich Lavrov, are said to have been very well informed about his previous work, including research in the field of mass persuasion and artificial intelligence. His work is said to have inspired Cambridge Analytica to do their work. The company created psychograms using data from millions of Facebook users. This enabled personalized campaign advertising - including for US President Donald Trump - to be played out.

Ready to push boundaries

He has drawn the interest of the Russian government because he is ready to cross borders that others shy away from. He tells the Guardian that while he can be sad that his privacy is being lost, it doesn't change the fact that it's already gone and there is no way to get it back. Therefore, he wanted to point out the dangers. But he could also see how such technologies are used to preventively identify potentially dangerous people in public.

Cambridge Analytica inspiration

In 2013, Kosinski published a study that claimed to be able to predict a person's personality based on Facebook likes. On the basis of big data one came to results such as that people who liked "iPod" on Facebook are probably dissatisfied with their lives. If the algorithm is fed enough likes, it can predict more about a person than real life friends can. In this way a "digital mass conviction" is possible.

These results - and the data collected to get them - was what Cambridge Analytica wanted to buy from Kosinski and his colleagues. When that didn't work, the company bought that of Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan instead. "It's not my fault," Kosinski told the Swiss daily newspaper in an interview years ago. "I didn't build the bomb. I just showed that the bomb existed." (red, 8.7.2018)