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Jake Goldenfein: Com­pu­ta­tional Eugen­ics

Melbourne Law School
Fri, 10. Aug 2018
Melbourne Law School G08, 185 PELHAM STREET CARLTON, VIC
6pm - 8pm

Over the past decade, researchers have been inves­ti­gat­ing new tech­nolo­gies for cat­e­goris­ing people based on phys­i­cal attrib­utes alone. Unlike pro­fil­ing with behav­ioural data cre­ated by inter­act­ing with infor­ma­tional envi­ron­ments, these tech­nolo­gies record and mea­sure data from the phys­i­cal world (i.e. signal) and use it to make a deci­sion about the ​‘world state’ – in this case a judge­ment about a person.

Auto­mated Per­son­al­ity Analy­sis and Auto­mated Per­son­al­ity Recog­ni­tion, for instance, are grow­ing sub-dis­ci­plines of com­puter vision, com­puter lis­ten­ing, and machine learn­ing. This family of tech­niques has been used to gen­er­ate per­son­al­ity pro­files and assess­ments of sex­u­al­ity, polit­i­cal posi­tion and even crim­i­nal­ity using facial mor­pholo­gies and speech expres­sions. These pro­fil­ing sys­tems do not attempt to com­pre­hend the con­tent of speech or to under­stand actions or sen­ti­ments, but rather to read per­sonal typolo­gies and build clas­si­fiers that can deter­mine per­sonal char­ac­ter­is­tics.

While the knowl­edge claims of these pro­fil­ing tech­niques are often ten­ta­tive, they increas­ingly deploy a vari­ant of ​‘big data epis­te­mol­ogy’ that sug­gests there is more infor­ma­tion in a human face or in spoken sound than is acces­si­ble or com­pre­hen­si­ble to humans. This paper explores the bases of those claims and the sys­tems of mea­sure­ment that are deployed in com­puter vision and lis­ten­ing. It asks if there is some­thing new in these claims beyond ​‘big data epis­te­mol­ogy’, and attempts to under­stand what it means to com­bine com­pu­ta­tional empiri­cism, sta­tis­ti­cal analy­ses, and prob­a­bilis­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tions to pro­duce knowl­edge about people.

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