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Discussion on: Would you willingly participate in creating a product like these?

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idanarye profile image
Idan Arye

Do these products work? How accurate are they? If we take, for example, the example you opened with - if an AI can accurately predict personality traits from people's faces, does that not mean that said personality traits are externalized in people's faces? This is not something the modern principles are comfortable with - so are these products considered unethical because they expose truths that don't fit with the right ideology?

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yorodm profile image
Yoandy Rodriguez Martinez Author

It's not a matter of ideology, although I see why (given the rise of the SJW movement) you may think that. If you say phisical traits are a reflection of a persons character you open the door to all kinds of discrimination, and it has been proven once and again that the science behind it is at best "weak".

Also that's the "science" behind phrenology and other movements. Movements that makes people gather other people against their will and ship them to other countries or move them into camps with signs that read "Arbeit Macht Frei" on the entrance.

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idanarye profile image
Idan Arye

Phrenology was popular two centuries ago - I think it is probably safe to assume they did not have machine learning back then. And I doubt the rest of these movements are basing their ideology on ML. The problem with these movement is not that the idea that there is some correlation between physical traits and mental traits is 100% wrong, but that these movements were over-simplifying that correlation and were basing it on racist ideology rather than scientific research. ML can do it better.

Machine learning is able to mimic the human ability to recognize patterns, but it can recognize much more complex patterns and achieve greater accuracy than humans. So if there is some truth in the idea of correlation between physical and mental traits, a powerful enough ML fed with enough examples may be able to model that correlation. If there is 0 connection between the physical and the mental, then it should be impossible for any algorithm to accurately predict one based on the other.

But these companies claim that they have managed to do it. These claims should be taken as scientific results, and judged with scientific methods. They can be criticized - maybe "they were overfitting" or maybe "the training and test sets were biased" - and these criticisms can be checked against the documented research and against attempts to replicate these studies (which could be a problem, I assume, if their algorithms are proprietary...). But "these results are immoral" is not valid scientific criticism, because science is trying to discover reality and reality is not obliged to our moral standards.