Looking For An Asian Friend

Added: Gabriella Mcquade - Date: 17.12.2021 14:08 - Views: 15750 - Clicks: 6781

To be Asian in America is to be quizzed, constantly, about your ethnicity. What are you? Where are you from? No, but where are your parents from?

Looking For An Asian Friend

Nowadays, such questions are more awkward than ominous. Recently, computer scientists at the University of Rochester tried to teach an algorithm to tell the difference between Chinese, Japanese and Korean faces. They wanted to explore how advancements in artificial intelligence have made it easier for computers to interpret pictures in sophisticated ways.

But, intentionally or not, their research taps into the uncomfortable history of how Asians have struggled to fit into American life. The scientists were inspired by a quiz created by Japanese American web deer Dyske Suematsu. Fifteen years ago, Suematsu decided, half-jokingly, to investigate the stereotype that Asians all look alike. He threw a party in New York City and invited Asian friends.

He put their portraits on the Internet and asked strangers to guess their ethnicity. Suematsu says that millions have registered and taken the test. On average, people identify 7 out of 18 photos correctly — an accuracy rate of about 39 percent. That's barely better than pure guessing, which would yield an accuracy rate of 33 percent, on average. Luo and his students suspected that a trained artificial intelligence might be able to perform as well, or even better. Recently, they collected hundreds of thousands of pictures of East Asian faces and fed them through an algorithm to figure out just what made Chinese, Japanese, and Korean people look different.

In a draft report detailing theirthey provide samples of the pictures fed to the computer. But despite what they expected to be a difficult task, the scientists were surprised to discover that the computer could achieve accuracy rates of over 75 percent. Lack of experience is a major reason humans sometimes struggle to tell foreigners apart. Studies suggest that with training, people can improve at recognizing the faces of people from different ethnic backgrounds. As Luo and his colleagues have demonstrated, computers might even be better than we are at noticing some of these subtle distinctions.

It's not all about physical proportions. When the scientists went to investigate how the computer was making its decisions, they discovered an interesting pattern. Many of the cues that stood out to the algorithm were cultural features, like hairstyles or glasses or facial expressions. This makes sense, since the people of China, Japan and Korea have somewhat shared ancestries, but distinct senses of fashion.

Without being told, the computer seemed to realize that our concepts of race and national identity transcend genetics — they are cultural ideas. Luo imagines that this kind of research might one day be used in targeted or counterterrorism.

Or, in a more Orwellian context, airports could set up cameras to racially profile people in the name of homeland security. It may be more interesting though, to view the project almost as a work of conceptual art. Luo and his co-authors are all scientists of Chinese heritage working in the United States, a nation that has not always welcomed Asians, or treated them with respect.

Looking For An Asian Friend

The work of Luo's lab rebukes the lazy notion that Asians all look the same. If a software routine can be trained to easily recognize the differences between a Chinese person, a Japanese person and a Korean person, then that challenges Americans to pay close attention, to work harder to understand the diverse mix of people living in our nation today. If the computer is mainly making judgments based on cultural attributes, it might completely fail at distinguishing between Korean Americans, Japanese Americans, and Chinese Americans.

That, too, would be remarkable — it would illustrate how identity is not something we are born with, but something that we build piece by piece. Ask any Asian American.

Looking For An Asian Friend

Every single one has a well-worn reply to the question: So where are you really from? This gets tiresome no matter how proud you are of your heritage. With our new mental prosthetics, we might learn to look at each other in new ways. But we might not master a lesson that truly matters: Sometimes, respecting another person means learning about their differences.

And sometimes, it means recognizing how they're really just the same. Search Input Search Sections Menu. Sections Menu. in ProfileSolid. By Jeff Guo. October 21, Share this story. Wp Get the full experience. Choose your plan ArrowRight.

Looking For An Asian Friend

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Looking For An Asian Friend

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