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New AI can tell whether you are gay or not from your photo

There are some people who are eerily accurate at guessing whether someone is gay or not. Personally, I practically have to see someone declare their sexuality through a megaphone before I notice anything. Basically, if you were ever in need of a "gaydar" for any reason, ask anyone but me.

But who says a human is a good test of this anyway? Recent research has shown that it computer programming would do a much better job at figuring out someone's sexuality through their looks alone. In fact, this new AI can accurately guess whether someone is gay or not, just by analysing a photo.

computer code Credit: Pexels

This study from Stanford University found that a computer algorithm could correctly distinguish between straight and gay men 81 percent of the time, with 74 percent accuracy for women. When the software viewed five images per person instead of one, it managed to hit 91 percent with men and 83 percent with women.

The research, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, was based off a sample of over 35,000 photos of men and women that were publicly posted on a dating website. Michael Kosinski and Yilun Wang, the researchers on the study, used a complex mathematical system that learns to analyse these images.

According to the study, gay men and women usually have "gender-atypical" features, meaning on average gay women look more masculine and vice versa. Getting into the specifics, they also found that gay women tended to have smaller foreheads and bigger jaws compared to heterosexual women. Gay men, on the other hand, had narrower jaws, larger foreheads and longer noses than straight men.

facial recognition Credit: Getty

Human judges were a lot worse, as you can imagine, but they were better than you may expect them to be. Apparently these judges could accurately guess 54 percent of the time for women and 61 percent for men, which - if I'm honest - is far better than I would manage.

The study claims that "faces contain much more information about sexual orientation than can be perceived and interpreted by the human brain". The paper strongly supports the theory that sexual orientation comes from specific hormones before birth, meaning that people are born gay (which, frankly, seems pretty obvious from my point of view).

CCTV camera Credit: Pexels

Of course, this has raised questions about the biological origins of sexual orientation, what this technology could be used for, and the ethics of any such software being used by anybody. The scary thing about all of this is that the technology is now possible, and could be used for more nefarious purposes.

Nick Rule, Associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and researcher into the science of "gaydar", is sceptical. Speaking to The Independent, he said:

"It’s certainly unsettling. Like any new tool, if it gets into the wrong hands, it can be used for ill purposes. If you can start profiling people based on their appearance, then identifying them and doing horrible things to them, that’s really bad."

In the study, the researchers also suggested that AI such as this could be used to find the links between our faces and our political views and personalities. This is all starting to sound the beginning of a dystopian sci-fi movie at the moment, so let's just hope this technology stays out of the wrong hands.