From the Department of Critically Needed New Technology

What is it that the world really needs? What should we be devoting our time, energy, and talent to, in order to make this a better world? Climate research? No. Renewable energy? No. Sustainable living? No. Gardening with native plants? No.

What we really need is some computer software that can "judge" how attractive women are.

We can thank Amit Kagian at Tel Aviv University for this great gift to humankind - I'm sorry, mankind. Because what we have really been needing is a new method of judging (heterosexual, I'm sure)) standards of female beauty.

As if we didn't already have 10 gazillion magazines, tv shows, and movies to tell us what the "accepted" standard of female beauty is.


The study only covered female faces because "there is a greater variety of positions regarding male beauty,"

Oh yeah. All of us - white women, black women, asian women, hispanic women, homosexual men - all agree on what counts as male beauty. I'm sure the Bear contingent of the male homosexual community will totally agree with what white women in New York City think counts as male beauty.

Take home message: women have beauty, which can be quantified, but men are all the same.

Sooooo glad to see that years of research time were spent on this important project.

More like this you suppose they can come up with a program that can tell when men are being intentionally sexist and when they're "just joking"?

Now that would be useful. :-)

Um... how does "a greater variety of positions regarding male beauty" translate to "all of us...agree on what counts as male beauty"?

I would suggest that perhaps "men are all the same" when it comes to judging beauty in women, but not in their own attractiveness to these women.

As for the study, I will have to read it before passing judgment.

Agreed with #2 -- Zuska, you misread the quoted statement to mean its opposite.

Still, this is one of those cases where either way you read it, it's still dumb! Like the whole project :)

Yeah, I agree with previous comments in that I think you interpreted that sentence wrong, but I disagree with the idea that this type of study is a waste. I don't think the idea is just to make a computer able to judge beauty, it's more an exercise in developing a computer's ability to 'learn' how we see things. I think that's pretty neat stuff, and could potentially be pretty useful.

Still, this is one of those cases where either way you read it, it's still dumb! Like the whole project :)

Exactly. It's a lame-ass throw-away sentence, intended to placate anyone, female or male, who might point out that the study is inherently sexist. We know that women, regardless of ethnic background, must have certain facial features and geometric characteristics (which are so narrowly defined that they can be recognized by a computer) to be considered "beautiful". Male beauty is more complex, loosely defined, less rigid, whatever...the bottom line is that men can have a variety of facial features, and still be considered beautiful or attractive. Note also that we are not informed about the male:female (or heterosexual:homosexual) ratios of the human participants in the study.

There is a substantial amount of psychology literature on what humans perceive to be attractive vs. unattractive facial features; Dave Munger at Cognitive Daily could probably provide an excellent summary of this research, if he hasn't already. I fail to see the utility of programming a computer to judge the beauty of female faces, using measurements and data obtained by psychologists and plastic surgeons years ago. It isn't even useful in the context of freakin' DARPA-funded face recognition technology.

Well you know, we do these very interesting and important studies on the effect of attractiveness and privilege in our society... isn't the goal of a really good software that takes into account how a great number of people, taken as a representative cross-section of the general population, rate beauty understandable?
I'm not saying this particular group went about it right, but I could see a potential reason we might want such software.

My bad on the quote mis-read. One should not blog while migraining. Thanks to all of you who pointed it out in a kind fashion.

It's simple really - to be attractive, a male must resemble either
a) George Clooney
b) Brad Pitt
c) Me.
Therefore it's not worth wasting time developing automatic male-beauty-recognition software.

Uhhhh I saw that on EurekaAlerts a couple days ago. I was going to blog about it myself, but then was so depressed by it that I couldn't bring myself to do it.

I did wonder, though, about the whole "composite attractiveness" idea. I once read about a similar thing that had been done for paintings--big poll taken of what kind of paintings people like best (landscape, portrait, etc) and what features they want in them (a hill, a barn, etc) and then made a composite of them all that turned out to be really boring. I wondered if the "ideal" "beautiful" woman would also be underwhelming, even to those who buy into the idea of ideal and beauty?

you gotta admit Zuska, it is nice for those who shall be first against the wall come the revolution to self-identify like this Kagian chap did. it'll save some time.

By SockMonkey (not verified) on 08 Apr 2008 #permalink

Judging beauty is a human cognitive function. We all do it, and no amount of feminist delusion can change the reality of it. Research towards computationally mimicking this function advances both artificial intelligence and cognitive science research, and furthermore may contribute to currently unforeseen or unimagined technological applications. Throwing up stupid, pointless and irrelevant ideological roadblocks before the advancement of science is exactly what I would expect feminists to do. You people never disappoint.

We've had our fun with "Julius"/"J", but perhaps it is time to start ignoring him and let him move on to greener pastures, so that the discussion can return to issues of gender equity in science and engineering, and not his wackaloonery.

for those who shall be first against the wall come the revolution

Before you try to argue by way of argumentum ad baculum, I suggest that you first consider which gender has more and bigger guns, and is better at using them. In other words, don't "argue from the stick" if your opponent's stick is much longer and thicker than yours.

It is worth considering at this point whether there is anything to be gained, other than reiforcing Julius/J's paranoid twisted thought processes, in continuing to engage with that sort of gibbering imbecile.

I dunno, but I think he just negated his own argument. If he's claiming men have the power and ability, and the female gender's power pales in comparison, obviously women still have a long way to go. He just admitted that we most certainly aren't running everything the way he claims in all his other posts.

Cherish: Good attempt, but not quite successful. Quote me where I claimed that women and men are equal, or where I claim that women and men are not equal. I claimed neither as a generalization. Under another topic, I did claim that it is inconsistent to claim both gender equality in technology and engineering, and support affirmative action at the same time. However, I did not take a stand as to whether women and men are or are not equal in regards to technology and engineering merit. Try to bone up on your reading comprehension skills. Thanks.

Under this topic, I did claim that men are in possession of more guns, and are better at using them, which has no necessary bearing upon technology and engineering merit. So what I claim in this topic is also completely irrelevant to any claims I might have made under the other topic.

One final addition: SockMonkey's threat of a revolution against the government is sufficient grounds to get him or her arrested as an enemy combatant, and thrown in prison for the rest of his or her life, without necessarily having any charges filed against him or her. The PATRIOT act has provisions for exactly this sort of arrangement. Maybe I should report the posting, to show him or her that one does not callously make such remarks without consequences.

PhysioProf, if I listen to you, doesn't that make me complicit to the oppressive male hierarchy? Are you trying to deprive me of my right to free speech?

(And I am totally kidding, so please don't take that seriously.) :-D

Sorry to post so late, but I saw this study on Science Daily and noted something about the set-up: volunteers were asked to assess 100 Caucasian women on a scale of 1 to 10. So, the study conflates "female beauty" with "a scale for female beauty that is based on white women," which makes this so-called study even more ridiculous (and clearly points out what the researchers think about "beauty"). As for its scientific usefulness, perhaps it could lead to a greater understanding of how to program cognition, but do we really want sexist, racist AIs?

Excellent post, Zuska, and, as a hopeful writer of feminist science fiction, I really enjoy your blog (in fact, I was so flabbergasted by this "study" that I went and wrote a short story about it).

By muchell mesaventur (not verified) on 22 Apr 2008 #permalink