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"Computer computer, on my screen — what's the fairest face you've ever seen?"

Presumably, that's what the folks at Youth Laboratories were thinking when they launched Beauty.AI, the world's first international beauty contest judged entirely by an advanced artificial intelligence system.

More than 600,000 people from across the world entered the contest, which was open to anyone willing to submit a selfie taken in neutral lighting without any makeup.


According to the scientists, their system would use algorithms based on facial symmetry, wrinkles, and perceived age to define "objective beauty" — whatever that means.

This murderous robot understands my feelings. GIF via CNBC/YouTube.

It's a pretty cool idea, right?

Removing all the personal taste and prejudice from physical judgment and allowing an algorithm to become the sole arbiter and beholder of beauty would be awesome.

What could possibly go wrong?

"Did I do that?" — These researchers, probably. GIF from "Family Matters."

Of the 44 "winners" the computer selected, seven of them were Asian, and one was black. The rest were white.

This is obviously proof that white people are the most objectively attractive race, right? Hahaha. NO.

Instead, it proves (once again) that human beings have unconscious biases, and that it's possible to pass those same biases on to machines.

Basically, if your algorithm is based mostly on white faces and 75% of the people who enter your contest are white Europeans, the white faces are going to win based on probability, even if the computer is told to ignore skin tone.

Plus, most cameras are literally optimized for light skin, so that probably didn't help the problem, either. In fact, the AI actually discarded some entries that it deemed to be "too dim."

So, because of shoddy recruitment, a non-diverse team, internal biases, and a whole slew of other reasons, these results were ... more than a little skewed.

Thankfully, Youth Laboratories acknowledged this oversight in a press release. They're delaying the next stage in their robotic beauty pageant until they iron out the kinks in the system.

Ironically, Alex Zhavoronkov, their chief science officer, told The Guardian, "The algorithm ... chose people who I may not have selected myself."

Basically, their accidentally racist and not-actually-objective robot also had lousy taste.Whoops.

Ooooh baby, racist robots! Yeah! GIF from Ruptly TV/YouTube.

This begs an important question: As cool as it would be to create an "objective" robot or algorithm, is it really even possible?

The short answer is: probably not. But that's because people aren't actually working on it yet — at least, not in the way they claim to be.

As cool and revelatory as these cold computer calculations could potentially be, getting people to acknowledge and compensate for their unconscious biases when they build the machines could be the biggest hurdle. Because what you put in determines what you get out.

"While many AI safety activists are concerned about machines wiping us out, there are very few initiatives focused on ensuring diversity, balance, and equal opportunity for humans in the eyes of AI," said Youth Laboratories Chief Technology Officer Konstantin Kiselev.

Of course you like that one. GIF from "Ex Machina."

This is the same issue we've seen with predictive policing, too.

If you tell a computer that blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be criminals, for example, it's going to provide you with an excuse for profiling that appears on the surface to be objective.

But in actuality, it just perpetuates the same racist system that already exists — except now, the police can blame the computer instead of not taking responsibility for themselves.

"There is no justice. There is ... just us." GIF from "Justice League."

Of course, even if the Beauty.AI programmers did find a way to compensate for their unconscious biases, they'd still have to deal with the fact that, well, there's just no clear definition for "beauty."

People have been trying to unlock that "ultimate secret key" to attractiveness since the beginning of time. And all kinds of theories abound: Is attractiveness all about the baby-makin', or is it some other evolutionary advantage? Is it like Youth Laboratories suggests, that "healthy people look more attractive despite their age and nationality"?

Also, how much of beauty is strictly physical, as opposed to physiological? Is it all just some icky and inescapable Freudian slip? How much is our taste influenced by what we're told is attractive, as opposed to our own unbiased feelings?

Simply put: Attractiveness serves as many different purposes as there are factors that define it. Even if this algorithm somehow managed to unlock every possible component of beauty, the project was flawed from the start. Humans can't even unanimously pick a single attractive quality that matters most to all of us.

GIF from "Gilligan's Island."

The takeaway here? Even our technology starts with our humanity.

Rather than creating algorithms to justify our prejudices or preferences, we should focus our energies on making institutional changes that bring in more diverse voices to help make decisions. Embracing more perspectives gives us a wider range of beauty — and that's better for everyone.

If your research team or board room or city council actually looks like the world it's supposed to represent, chances are they're going to produce results that look the same way, too.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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When I was younger I used to think I was dying or that I would get kidnapped by a random stranger, but I kept it to myself because I thought something was wrong with me. I thought that telling people would confirm this fear, so I kept it inside my entire life until I was an adult and learned it was part of ADHD and other disorders, such as OCD and PTSD. But it doesn't have to be part of a disorder at all—a vast amount of people just have intrusive thoughts, and a Twitter user, Laura Gastón, is trying to normalize them for others.

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Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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