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robertogreco : pseudoscience   11

Physiognomy’s New Clothes – Blaise Aguera y Arcas – Medium
"In 1844, a laborer from a small town in southern Italy was put on trial for stealing “five ricottas, a hard cheese, two loaves of bread […] and two kid goats”. The laborer, Giuseppe Villella, was reportedly convicted of being a brigante (bandit), at a time when brigandage — banditry and state insurrection — was seen as endemic. Villella died in prison in Pavia, northern Italy, in 1864.

Villella’s death led to the birth of modern criminology. Nearby lived a scientist and surgeon named Cesare Lombroso, who believed that brigantes were a primitive type of people, prone to crime. Examining Villella’s remains, Lombroso found “evidence” confirming his belief: a depression on the occiput of the skull reminiscent of the skulls of “savages and apes”.

Using precise measurements, Lombroso recorded further physical traits he found indicative of derangement, including an “asymmetric face”. Criminals, Lombroso wrote, were “born criminals”. He held that criminality is inherited, and carries with it inherited physical characteristics that can be measured with instruments like calipers and craniographs [1]. This belief conveniently justified his a priori assumption that southern Italians were racially inferior to northern Italians.

The practice of using people’s outer appearance to infer inner character is called physiognomy. While today it is understood to be pseudoscience, the folk belief that there are inferior “types” of people, identifiable by their facial features and body measurements, has at various times been codified into country-wide law, providing a basis to acquire land, block immigration, justify slavery, and permit genocide. When put into practice, the pseudoscience of physiognomy becomes the pseudoscience of scientific racism.

Rapid developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning have enabled scientific racism to enter a new era, in which machine-learned models embed biases present in the human behavior used for model development. Whether intentional or not, this “laundering” of human prejudice through computer algorithms can make those biases appear to be justified objectively.

A recent case in point is Xiaolin Wu and Xi Zhang’s paper, “Automated Inference on Criminality Using Face Images”, submitted to arXiv (a popular online repository for physics and machine learning researchers) in November 2016. Wu and Zhang’s claim is that machine learning techniques can predict the likelihood that a person is a convicted criminal with nearly 90% accuracy using nothing but a driver’s license-style face photo. Although the paper was not peer-reviewed, its provocative findings generated a range of press coverage. [2]
Many of us in the research community found Wu and Zhang’s analysis deeply problematic, both ethically and scientifically. In one sense, it’s nothing new. However, the use of modern machine learning (which is both powerful and, to many, mysterious) can lend these old claims new credibility.

In an era of pervasive cameras and big data, machine-learned physiognomy can also be applied at unprecedented scale. Given society’s increasing reliance on machine learning for the automation of routine cognitive tasks, it is urgent that developers, critics, and users of artificial intelligence understand both the limits of the technology and the history of physiognomy, a set of practices and beliefs now being dressed in modern clothes. Hence, we are writing both in depth and for a wide audience: not only for researchers, engineers, journalists, and policymakers, but for anyone concerned about making sure AI technologies are a force for good.

We will begin by reviewing how the underlying machine learning technology works, then turn to a discussion of how machine learning can perpetuate human biases."



"Research shows that the photographer’s preconceptions and the context in which the photo is taken are as important as the faces themselves; different images of the same person can lead to widely different impressions. It is relatively easy to find a pair of images of two individuals matched with respect to age, race, and gender, such that one of them looks more trustworthy or more attractive, while in a different pair of images of the same people the other looks more trustworthy or more attractive."



"On a scientific level, machine learning can give us an unprecedented window into nature and human behavior, allowing us to introspect and systematically analyze patterns that used to be in the domain of intuition or folk wisdom. Seen through this lens, Wu and Zhang’s result is consistent with and extends a body of research that reveals some uncomfortable truths about how we tend to judge people.

On a practical level, machine learning technologies will increasingly become a part of all of our lives, and like many powerful tools they can and often will be used for good — including to make judgments based on data faster and fairer.

Machine learning can also be misused, often unintentionally. Such misuse tends to arise from an overly narrow focus on the technical problem, hence:

• Lack of insight into sources of bias in the training data;
• Lack of a careful review of existing research in the area, especially outside the field of machine learning;
• Not considering the various causal relationships that can produce a measured correlation;
• Not thinking through how the machine learning system might actually be used, and what societal effects that might have in practice.

Wu and Zhang’s paper illustrates all of the above traps. This is especially unfortunate given that the correlation they measure — assuming that it remains significant under more rigorous treatment — may actually be an important addition to the already significant body of research revealing pervasive bias in criminal judgment. Deep learning based on superficial features is decidedly not a tool that should be deployed to “accelerate” criminal justice; attempts to do so, like Faception’s, will instead perpetuate injustice."
blaiseaguerayarcas  physiognomy  2017  facerecognition  ai  artificialintelligence  machinelearning  racism  bias  xiaolinwu  xi  zhang  race  profiling  racialprofiling  giuseppevillella  cesarelombroso  pseudoscience  photography  chrononet  deeplearning  alexkrizhevsky  ilyasutskever  geoffreyhinton  gillevi  talhassner  alexnet  mugshots  objectivity  giambattistadellaporta  francisgalton  samuelnorton  josiahnott  georgegiddon  charlesdarwin  johnhoward  thomasclarkson  williamshakespeare  iscnewton  ernsthaeckel  scientificracism  jamesweidmann  faception  criminality  lawenforcement  faces  doothelange  mikeburton  trust  trustworthiness  stephenjaygould  philippafawcett  roberthughes  testosterone  gender  criminalclass  aggression  risk  riskassessment  judgement  brianholtz  shermanalexie  feedbackloops  identity  disability  ableism  disabilities 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Steven Shapin reviews ‘The Pseudoscience Wars’ by Michael Gordin · LRB 8 November 2012
"If pseudosciences are not scientific, neither are they anti-scientific. They flatter science by elaborate rituals of imitation, rejecting many of the facts, theories and presumptions of orthodoxy while embracing what are celebrated as the essential characteristics of science. That is at once a basis for the wide cultural appeal of pseudoscience and an extreme difficulty for those wanting to show what’s wrong with it. Velikovsky advertised his work as, so to speak, more royalist than the king. Did authentic science have masses of references and citations? There they were in Worlds in Collision. Was science meant to aim at the greatest possible explanatory scope, trawling as many disciplines as necessary in search of unified understanding? What in orthodoxy could rival Velikovsky’s integrative vision? Authentic science made specific predictions of what further observation and experiment would show. Velikovsky did too. Was science ideally open to all claimants, subjecting itself to…"
hyperscience  parapsychology  unorthodox  orthodoxy  predictions  logic  reasoning  haroldurey  hermankahn  stanleykubrick  counterculture  hope  fear  alfredkazin  psychoanalytictheory  darwin  uniformitarianism  massivechange  change  catastrophism  worldsincollision  mythology  astronomy  coldwar  1950  fringe  immanuelvalikovsky  books  2012  pseudoscience  science  michaelgordin  stevenshapin  charlesdarwin 
october 2012 by robertogreco
The Fall of the Creative Class
"“Life is totally clear cut. It’s exactly what the research is. All the research says go live with your friends and fam­ily. Oth­er­wise, you have to look at why you’re not doing that. If you want to look at a city that’s best for your career, it’s New York, San Fran­cisco or Lon­don. If you’re not look­ing for your career, it doesn’t really mat­ter. There’s no dif­fer­ence. It’s split­ting hairs. The whole con­ver­sa­tion about where to live is bullshit.”"

"“Even as an arts advo­cate,” said Mel Gray, “I want to do it for the right rea­sons.” The right rea­son, we can now say, is that these things are good in them­selves. They have intrin­sic value. They make the place we live more inter­est­ing, live­lier, health­ier and more humane. They make it better.

They do not make it more profitable."

>>>> "I know you could go down it for­ever and never quite arrive. And I know now that it may be wiser to try to cre­ate the place you want to live, rather than to keep try­ing to find it."
community  families  creativity  arts  economics  sociology  pseudoscience  oregon  portland  madison  society  grassisgreener  place  cities  living  life  2012  richardflorida  creativeclass 
june 2012 by robertogreco
Darryl Cunningham Investigates: Homeopathy [via: http://twitter.com/paleofuture/status/17758089838]
"A 19 page strip about homeopathy. My follow up story-strip to the one I did on the MMR vaccine scare, and another chapter of my ongoing book about science. This is, in effect, the beta version of the strip."
darrylcunningham  belief  homeopathy  pseudoscience  science  medicine  health  culture  quackery  comics  controversy  criticalthinking  investigation  research 
july 2010 by robertogreco
YouTube - RDF TV - The Baloney Detection Kit - Michael Shermer
"Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine lays out a "Baloney Detection Kit," ten questions we should ask when encountering a claim."
michaelshermer  criticalthinking  science  skepticism  patterns  pseudoscience 
june 2009 by robertogreco
Teach the Controversy - Intelligently designed t-shirts urging you to show both sides of every story
"'Big Science' is always suppressing The Truth with their blatant pro-evolution anti-wacko agenda...time to fight back and urge schools to Teach The Controversy with these intelligently designed t-shirts."
science  clothing  humor  tshirts  pseudoscience  evolution  via:chrisod  t-shirts 
june 2008 by robertogreco
@ETech: Matt Webb's Tour of a Fictional Solar System - O'Reilly Radar
"We began ETech with a series of Ignite talks. As usual Matt Webb weaved together beautiful images, kinetic energy and keen insights. Enjoy the talk."
mattwebb  sciencefiction  pseudoscience  scifi  science  space  fiction  etech  oreilly  astronomy 
april 2008 by robertogreco
Bodies of Knowledge
"This site looks at the way different cultures, at various points in history, have looked at the body, and how these ideas have been translated into pictures. Click on the links below to explore all sorts of bodily curiosities."
anatomy  biology  human  history  culture  philosophy  physiology  illustration  medicine  pseudoscience  visualization  exhibits  body  cryptozoology  drawing  bodies 
february 2008 by robertogreco
Will at Work Learning: People remember 10%, 20%...Oh Really?
"It will seem obvious, but each and every one of us must take responsibility for the information we transmit to ensure its integrity. More importantly, we must be actively skeptical of the information we receive."
myths  myth  cognition  coneofexperience  pseudoscience  pedagogy  education  statistics  learning  teaching  training  memory  trust  information  literacy  reading  knowledge  instruction  learningstyles  experience  research  media  retention  debunking  coneoflearning 
january 2008 by robertogreco
What's wrong with homeopathy, by Ben Goldacre | Science | The Guardian
"properly conducted studies have proved homeopathic remedies work no better than simple placebos. why do so many sensible people swear by them? Goldacre follows a trail of fudged statistics, bogus surveys & widespread self-deception"
medicine  homeopathy  science  psychology  placebos  pseudoscience  skepticism  health  healthcare  criticalthinking  belief  research  evidence  media  vaccinations  mmr  truth  public 
november 2007 by robertogreco

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