Machines can now detect your sexuality with frightening accuracy just by scanning your photos—and it may only be a matter of time until this will be used to forcibly out and discriminate against the gay population.
There is such thing as a “gay face” and it’s time everyone accept that being gay is a biological fact and not a choice.
Despite your own sexuality, chances are you’ve passed another man (or woman) on the street and thought to yourself that he’s probably gay. You may have judged him by the way he walked, dressed or acted—but could you tell from just looking at his face? You may have even thought a man had “gay eyes,” which Urban Dictionary defines as “A description for the extremely open, sparkly, slightly vacant eyes that some gay men possess.” But is there really such a thing as a “gay face?”
In 2013 researchers from the Center for Theoretical Study at Charles University in Prague and The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic studied the facial characteristics of gay and straight men to see if sexual orientation could be determined by facial features alone. Their findings are astounding.
First, they determined that there is indeed a morphological (relating to the form or structure of things) difference between the faces of gay and straight men. A correlation between the features of a face and a person’s sexuality puts the nail in the coffin that being gay is a choice. The study also tested how accurately test subjects could guess a person’s sexuality based on faces shown to them. The test subjects failed miserably—barely above chance.
Artificial Intelligence is used to spot patterns in massive amounts of data with unprecedented results.
Artificial intelligence (AI) applied to big data sets can be used to identify patterns that no human being is able to see. Wildbook uses AI to analyze photos from across the web to help prevent animal extinction. Amazon uses AI on large amounts of user behavior data to predict what products you’d want and detect fraud. Medical researchers have used AI on large data sets of electronic health records to predict sepsis, a life-threatening complication, a full 24 hours earlier than doctors were previously able to.
Using AI to infer sexuality is already here
AI can also be applied to infering with chilling accuracy which faces are gay. Stanford University researchers Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang have shown that machine vision can guess sexual orientation by analyzing people’s faces. The study, soon to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology analyzed public profile photos downloaded from a leading American dating website: 35,326 photos of 14,776 people, with gay and straight, male and female, all represented evenly.
The AI analyzed the photos to find patterns between facial structure and sexuality, as people self-reported on the dating site. The structures of gay faces tend to be gender atypical. “Average landmark locations revealed that gay men had narrower jaws and longer noses, while lesbians had larger jaws. Composite faces suggest that gay men had larger foreheads than heterosexual men, while lesbians had smaller foreheads than heterosexual women.”
The resulting facial-sexuality recognition model was then run on new images that the software program hadn’t seen before—it performed with alarming accuracy. When the program was given one photo each of a gay and straight man chosen at random, the AI model was able to correctly infer sexuality 81% of the time. When the model was shown five photos of each man, it was correct 91% of the time. The model wasn’t as accurate with women and with one image analyzed, it only performed with 71% accuracy, and with five images each, it increased to 83%.
When humans were given the same images to guess a person’s sexuality, they were right 61% of the time for men and 54% of the time for women—only a little better than chance. This was the same both with the images from the dating site and as well as images taken in the lab.
AI can be used to discriminate against, forcibly out and attack gay people
Dr. Kosinksi says that there are many limitations in the study and that it is still far from perfect. This study only analyzed Caucasian adults that were gay or straight. However, as more and more data mounts and algorithms are perfected, the model will become increasingly more accurate and would include all other races, ages and genders. Privacy about your intimate details has already become all but an illusion.
The researchers are aware that in the wrong hands a computer model the can determine a person’s sexuality could be dangerous. In many areas of the world and cultures where it is not socially acceptable or even illegal to be gay, a software model like this could be harmful and even life threatening. Dr. Kosinski has made clear in the study that he has not invented any new technology, rather stitched together software already available to anyone with an internet connection.
A world where people can upload a few photos to a website to determine sexuality is not that far away. Spouses would want to use this to see if their husband is gay—after all “gay” is 10% more likely to complete searches that begin with “is my husband…” than with the word “cheating.” Today with such an emphasis on cohesive company culture, a potential employer would want to check your social media to see if you fit in.
One dystopian view of the future imagines gay-looking people undergoing surgeries to correct a “gay nose” or “gay jaw.” At this point it would be easier to change culture than to change biology. If it is inevitable that anti-gay governments will one day in the near future use this as a tool against gay people, the time is now to come out of the closet and band together to make it socially acceptable to be gay everywhere.
This study and its findings should be a wake up call to gays worldwide to come out of the closet before there is no closet left to come out of.