Phrenology is the ‘science’ of reading personality characteristics from the shape of the skull. It is now universally discredited and somewhat notorious as representing the peak of 19th century pseudoscience. However, it appears to be making something of a comeback if two recent studies that claim the characteristics of a person’s sexuality can be interpreted from simply examining their face.
According to researchers at a Canadian university, the strength of a person’s sex drive can be determined by measuring their facial features.
For this study the team measured the facial parameters including facial width-to-height ratios (known as FWHR). They noted that previous studies have shown that men, who had square faces or high FWHR, are generally more aggressive and more dominant. They tend to be more unethical and are more attractive as short term sexual partners compared to men who have thinner and longer faces. These men also tend to have psychopathic traits and greater achievement drive. They are financially successful as well that make them attractive as a short-term sexual partner. It has been seen that among non-human primates such as apes too high FWHR is linked to assertiveness and dominance.
Perhaps this isn’t so…well, 19th century as it sounds. It is known, for example, that male and female hormones do affect the shape of the face. This is why female bodybuilders using (male) steroids often develop ‘square jaws’.
But we might ask where this is leading? The appeal of phrenology to 19th century thinkers was that it might lead to criminals being detected before they had embarked upon their illegal activities. In the 21st century, perhaps it will be of interest to the auhtorities in spotting potential sex offenders, or even gay men in countries where homosexuality is illegal?
If the discredited Victorian science of phrenology is making a comeback, the disturbing thing might be that it is doing so just when 21st century technologies such as 3D scanning, facial recognition, and A.I. are all making rapid advances. And in fact, the other recent study in this area claimed that these techs could now be used to determine a person’s sexuality by analyzing their faces.
two researchers from Stanford University decided to study how well artificial intelligence could identify people’s sexual orientation based on their faces alone. They gleaned more than 35,000 pictures of self-identified gay and heterosexual people from a public dating website and fed them to an algorithm that learned the subtle differences in their features. They then showed the software randomly selected face pictures and asked it to guess whether the people in them were gay or heterosexual.
The results were unsettling. According to the study, first published last week, the algorithm was able to correctly distinguish between gay and heterosexual men 81 percent of the time, and gay and heterosexual women 71 percent of the time, far outperforming human judges. Given the prevalence of such technology, the researchers wrote, “our findings expose a threat to the privacy and safety of gay men and women.”
Now, however, two prominent LGBT advocacy groups are denouncing the study as “junk science.” Far from protecting the LGBT community, they say, it could be used as a weapon against gay and lesbian people as well as heterosexuals who could be inaccurately “outed” as gay. The researchers, in turn, have issued multiple lengthy defenses of their work and said they are the victims of a “smear campaign.”
Assuming the ability to learn something of the sexual character of a person through their physiology is not complete junk science, and leaving aside potential nefarious uses of the technology by law enforcement and the like, are there any potential positive upsides to it?
Perhaps it could even aid the fight against homophobia and other forms of discrimination based upon ‘deviant’ sexuality? If it becomes simple to tell a person’s sexuality from even a picture, then it might reveal that most homophobic bigots are indeed, closet homosexuals themselves. Such hypocrites might be less inclined to make political capital out of pursuing discriminatory legislation.
In terms of improving sex lives and possibilities, such tech would most definitely be useful in matchmaking sites. Dating apps like Tinder could certainly benefit from it.
Face tracking and real-time bio-metric analysis will surely be used to make better virtual sex fantasies and worlds at some point. An A.I. driven digital virtual reality experience could adjust the fantasy in real time responding to the reactions of the user. For example, imagine you enter a room in virtual reality containing a bevy of beautiful girls, all differently clothed, different sizes, races, hair colours, and multiple other varying other physical features. The tracker could measure your eye movement, facial expressions, and biometric readings to determine which girls are most appealing to you. The girls who are ‘your type’ come towards you to start the sexual play. After a short while, and before you are ‘done’ (your climax itself carefully delayed), another girl enters the room. She is the most perfect female you have ever seen in your life – real or in virtual reality. The A.I. has determined from your reactions to the other girls exactly what your ‘ideal female’ looks like and created her for you. Enjoy! 😛