A new study out of Stanford University suggests that artificial intelligence (AI) can accurately determine someone’s sexual orientation based on their face. CNBC reports that the machine intelligence analyzed dating profile photos. The AI was able to distinguish between heterosexual and homosexual men 81% of the time and 74% among women. By contrast, humans were able to guess correctly 61% of the time for men and 54% for women.
According to the study, gay men and women usually had “gender-atypical” facial features. CNBC reports that the researchers suggest that sexual orientation is largely determined by hormones at birth and that female sexuality exists on a more fluid spectrum.
There is no doubt that rends in technology have drive our modern digital landscape. About 82% of companies report saving money by switching to cloud computing, virtual reality is creeping into multiple industries, and artificial intelligence has also shown some promise. But many LQBTQA+ advocates say that this use of AI will surely breed discrimination and harm to queer individuals.
“Imagine for a moment the potential consequences if this flawed research were used to support a brutal regime’s efforts to identify and/or persecute people they believed to be gay,” Ashland Johnson, director of public education and research for Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement, according to The Guardian . “Stanford should distance itself from such junk science rather than lending its name and credibility to research that is dangerously flawed and leaves the world – and this case, millions of people’s lives – worse and less safe than before.”
Michal Kosinski, co-author of the study and Standford professor, said in a statement to The Guardian that is is his role to release the research, without taking opinions into consideration.
“One of my obligations as a scientist is that if I know something that can potentially protect people from falling prey to such risks, I should publish it,” he said. “Rejecting the results because you don’t agree with them on an ideological level…you might be harming the very people that you care about.”
Advocacy groups and critics also pointed out that the study did not use a diverse pool of subjects, since most of the profiles belonged to white people. According to The Guardian, the researchers also received criticism for only considering the photos that people chose to display on dating profiles. In response to these comments, Kosinski said that he hopes that another researcher picks up the study and proves it incorrect.
“I hope that someone will go and fail to replicate this study,” he said in a statement to The Guardian. “I would be the happiest person in the world if I was wrong.”