Categories: Science & Technology

‘How Normal Am I’ rates you for your appearance. This is not discrimination, but a test for normality

A Dutch artist has launched a website whose algorithms evaluate the weight, age and beauty of visitors. It is enough to turn on the webcam, and you will be told everything that neural networks think of you. But you should not be offended by a bad grade and a forecast for old age – in fact, this is not the purpose of the project.

In the 21st century, technological progress not only makes human life easier, but also controls it. Algorithms analyze people by their appearance, and plastic surgeons use them to evaluate the beauty of certain patients – and stars. Back in early 2020, they recognized Robert Pattinson as the most handsome man on Earth. Six months later, users of social networks really began to go crazy over the actor.

In October 2020, Dutch artist Tijmen Schep launched a project called How Normal Am I.

Its goal is to demonstrate how artificial intelligence evaluates the appearance and behavior of people right now. In a press release, Tijmen describes it this way:

Algorithms evaluate us for beauty, age, gender, emotions, body mass index and even life expectancy, and this is already entrenched in our society. Tinder, for example, uses beauty ratings to match people who are roughly equally attractive, and photo weight estimation is used in the health insurance industry.

How Normal Am I is an interactive documentary that allows Internet users to listen to Schep’s story about technology and become the heroes of his research. The project was created with the support of the European Union and Schep worked on it for the research project Sherpa. Its authors want to draw people’s attention to the problems that AI will create by 2025.

To take part, just go to the main page of the site, agree to the terms, give the algorithm access to the webcam and answer a series of questions. AI works right in the browser, and the analysis is carried out on your computer, so do not be afraid that your data will be sent to the Internet without your knowledge.

Next, you see a window with your face, a video in which the author of the project explains what is happening, and a table that is filled in while the algorithm studies you and your behavior.

How Normal Am I first checks to see if you have read the terms and conditions – most members ignore them – then asks for age. And finally, it moves on to assessing his appearance – on a ten-point scale.

Throughout the analysis, Schep explains that algorithms that judge people by their appearance are not all that reliable. They are easy to manipulate: just turn on the light, bring your face closer to the screen and smile to boost your beauty score. In addition, AI inherits the prejudices of its creators: it learned from photographs that Chinese students recognized as beautiful, therefore it is not completely objective.

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Further, the algorithm estimates the age of a person by his appearance (and indicates whether the user has lied about him), guesses the gender (now most of the participants are men) and estimates the body mass index.

According to the artist, it is also not difficult to deceive the program at this moment. The higher your eyebrows are raised, the thinner you appear to the AI.

The AI ​​then tells you how long you have left to live according to its estimates. Forecast at 70 is below average among participants

Further, the hero of the video offers to bend closer to the camera to capture the “code of his face”. Whether a person listened to this request is also taken into account. Most ignore it – and rightly so, because it’s just a test.

After that, Schep explains that all this time, the algorithm monitored the participant’s emotions and assessed whether he smiled at the sight of the dogs at the very beginning of the test – most people were left with sad faces.

At the end, the algorithm reports how actively the person interacted with the site: he moved the cursor and switched tabs. And completes the test by asking if the participant would like to share their results anonymously . This data will be used to compare you with everyone involved and improve AI.

The final indicator is calculated based on how much the results differ from the average among everyone who studied AI and who shared their data with the project.

You can check your normality here. This is definitely not the best way to judge your appearance or weight. Schep urges users to be careful about such profiling systems: they are increasingly used for ranking, but in fact they are not so objective and make people tend to be much more average.


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