Psychologist Michal Kosinski alleges artificial intelligence is capable of detecting your motivations and sexuality just by looking at your face.
“I was shocked it was so easy.”
On July 14th last year, Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, and several members of his cabinet chaired in an office building on the outskirts of Moscow. On to the stage walked a schoolboyish-looking psychologist, Michal Kosinski, who they flew in from the city centre via helicopter to share his research.
Kosinski, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, was thrilled that the Russian cabinet would assemble to listen to him talk.
“Those guys strike me as one of the most competent and well-informed groups,” says Kosinski. “They did their homework. They read my stuff.”
Kosinski’s “stuff” consists of pioneering research into technology, mass persuasion and artificial intelligence (AI) – research that influenced the creation of the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
Five years ago, while a graduate student at Cambridge University, he demonstrated how even nonmalignant activity on Facebook could divulge personality traits — a finding that was later victimized by the data-analytics firm that helped place Donald Trump in the White House.
Weeks following his trip to Moscow, Kosinski published a contentious paper in which he showcased how face-analyzing algorithms could distinguish between photos of gay and straight people.
As well as sexuality, Kosinski believes this technology could be used to identify emotions, IQ and even a sensitiveness to commit certain crimes. He has too utilized algorithms to differentiate between the faces of Democrats and Republicans, in an unpublished study he says was fruitful – although he acknowledges the results can alter “depending on whether I include beards or not”.