AI Weekly: AI phrenology is racist nonsense, so of course it doesn’t work


In a paper titled “The ‘Criminality From Face’ Illusion” posted this week on Arxiv.org, a trio of researchers surgically debunked current analysis that claims to have the ability to use AI to find out criminality from individuals’s faces. Their major goal is a paper during which researchers declare they’ll just do that, boasting some outcomes with accuracy as excessive as 97%.

However the authors representing the IEEE — Kevin Bowyer and Walter Scheirer of the College of Notre Dame and Michael King of the Florida Institute of Know-how — argue that this type of facial recognition know-how is “essentially doomed to fail,” and that the robust claims are primarily an illusory results of poor experimental design.

Of their rebuttal, the authors present the mathematics, so to talk, however you don’t must comb by means of their arguments to know that claims about having the ability to detect an individual’s criminality from their facial options is bogus. It’s simply modern-day phrenology and physiognomy.

Phrenology is an previous concept that the bumps on an individual’s cranium point out what kind of particular person they’re and what kind and degree of intelligence they’ll attain. Physiognomy is actually the identical thought, nevertheless it’s even older and is extra about inferring who an individual is by their bodily look quite than the form of their cranium. Each are inherently deeply racist concepts, used for “scientific racism” and clear-eyed justification for atrocities resembling slavery.

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And each concepts have been broadly and soundly debunked and condemned, but they’re not lifeless. They had been simply ready for some sheep’s clothes, which they present in facial recognition know-how.

The issues with accuracy and bias in facial recognition are properly documented. The landmark Gender Shades work by Pleasure Buolamwini, Dr. Timnit Gebru, Dr. Helen Raynham, and Deborah Raji confirmed how main facial recognition techniques carried out worse on girls and other people with darker pores and skin. Dr. Ruha Benjamin, creator, Princeton College affiliate professor of African American Research, and director of the Simply Knowledge Lab said in a talk earlier this year that those that create AI fashions should think about social and historic contexts.

Her assertion is echoed and unpacked by cognitive science researcher Abeba Birhane in her paper “Algorithmic Injustices: Towards a Relational Ethics,” for which she received the Greatest Paper Award at NeurIPS 2019. Birhane wrote within the paper that “considerations surrounding algorithmic determination making and algorithmic injustice require elementary rethinking above and past technical options.”

This week, as protests proceed throughout the nation, the social and historic contexts of white supremacy and racial inequality are on full show. And the risks of facial recognition use by legislation enforcement is entrance and heart. In a trio of articles, VentureBeat senior AI author Khari Johnson detailed how IBM walked away from its facial recognition tech, Amazon put a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial recognition tech, and Microsoft pledged to not promote its facial recognition tech to police until there’s a national law in place around its use.

Which brings us again to the IEEE paper. Just like the work executed by the aforementioned researchers in exposing damaged and biased AI, these authors are performing the commendable and sadly essential process of selecting aside dangerous analysis. Along with some historic context, they clarify intimately why and the way the info units and analysis design are flawed.

Although they do talk about it of their conclusion, the authors don’t have interaction immediately within the elementary ethical drawback of criminality-by-face analysis. In taking a technological and analysis methodology strategy to debunking the claims, they go away room for somebody to make the argument that future technological or scientific developments may make this phrenology and physiognomy nonsense potential. Satirically, of their strategy, there’s a hazard of legitimizing these concepts.

This isn’t a criticism of Bowyer, Scheirer, and King. They’re combating (and profitable) a battle right here. There’ll all the time be battles, as a result of there’ll all the time be charlatans who declare to know an individual from their outward look, and you need to debunk them in that second in time with the instruments and language obtainable.

However the long-running battle is about that query itself. It’s a flawed query, as a result of the very notion of phrenology comes from a spot of white supremacy. Which is to say, it’s an illegitimate query to start with.



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