Stanford Invents AI Gaydar, Flubs Write-Up

Yilun Wang and Michal Kosinsksi, researchers at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, have developed a neural-net classifier that purportedly detects sexual orientation (in caucasians).
FacialRecognition
The authors report an avalanche of experimental results, and claim the classifier can “correctly distinguish between gay and straight men 81% of the time, and 74% for women.”  OK, that’s the sensitivity of the gadget.  What about specificity, i.e. how well does it correctly distinguish folks who are not-so-gay?  Without that second number (as well as an estimate of prevalance), it’s not possible to estimate the false positive and false negative rates for this thing.  Very important, if some of the more Orwellian applications mentioned by the authors come to pass.
I give the authors a “C,” for incomplete work.
Update: Dan Simmons, writing at the Andrew Gelman blog, writes a rambling, fascinating takedown of this “research,” from both the scientific and MSM points of view.  Based on just the statistical problems, I’m changing the grade to a “D-.”
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Time for some Doubleplus Ungood Badthink

The Brat Pack of science fiction has concocted a cynical ploy to disturb the genre’s Purity of Essence; they’re giving away e-books.

Wrongthink

I wasn’t too sure about this until I read John Scalzi’s pithy recommendation. “This is bullshit” exactly sums up my opinion of his latest strawman social-justice snoozer Locked In.  So he’s become my anti-oracle.

Some Hard Stats about University Teaching

Thinking about becoming a university professor?  Read Kevin Birmingham’s “The Great Shame of Our Profession” before making definite plans.

A 2014 congressional report suggests that 89 percent of adjuncts work at more than one institution; 13 percent work at four or more. The need for several appointments becomes obvious when we realize how little any one of them pays….

According to the 2014 congressional report, adjuncts’ median pay per course is $2,700. An annual report by the American Association of University Professors indicated that last year “the average part-time faculty member earned $16,718” from a single employer. Other studies have similar findings. Thirty-one percent of part-time faculty members live near or below the poverty line.

queueingtheadjuncts

It’s amusing to think of all the underpaid university adjuncts striking for a “living wage.”  Unfortunately, the pool of potential “scabs” is way too deep for any strike to be effective for more than one semester.

Of course, not all disciplines have the same problems.  My department is chronically desparate to find enough statisticians to teach all our courses, and I’ve been comfortably esconced in a non-tenure track job for over 15 years.  But statisticians are rare birds, and everyone I’ve talked to allows as how it’s far too late for them to swot up on their math and stats to become employable.

Tip from the Instapundit, who knows exploitation when he sees it.

Reports of its death are greatly exaggerated

The ability of statistics to accurately represent the world is declining. In its wake, a new age of big data controlled by private companies is taking over – and putting democracy in peril.

begins William Davies tale of woe in the Guardian.  Unfortunately, he confuses credible statistics with modern state-istics*; and seems impervious to the idea that Joe Sixpack has wised up to the fact that there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics,” and that most of these are peddled by the Leviathan State and its corporate cronies.  Usually to Joe’s detriment.

Statistics in industry and scientific research is doing quite well, thank you.  The Big Data movement is still immature and riddled with snake-oil salesmen; it will eventually spot them, possibly by applying its methodologies reflexively.

Tip from that same O’Reilly Newsletter.  Finally, I got on a sucker list that’s interesting!

*Where did you think the word came from?

Update:  Briggsy holds much the same opinion as I do, but expresses it more eloquently.