Saturday, August 29, 2015

How old do I look?

I'm writing this post to make one thing clear about the website How Old Do I Look? On this website you can temporarily upload any photo and it will make a guess as to whether the face(s) in that photo are male or female and how old that image appears. The program will not keep your photo. Many people have written comments about how badly the How-old program estimates their age. They write things like, "It said I was 47 when I'm actually 25!" and "It says I look 36. I'm 51, so thanks!" and "You need a feedback loop because this thing is getting a lot of wrong answers."

The one thing I want to make clear is that these people are confused about what the How-old program does. It doesn't estimate you how old you are. It estimates the age of that particular two-dimensional image, using whatever parameters have been programmed into it. It's using a single, highly flawed representation of you to try to guess how old you LOOK in that single, highly flawed representation. That's why I've been able to upload a few photos and receive different ages for every one. The program is saying that, according to its definition, this particular image looks like it represents a person who is approximately this old. It's nothing to take personally. It has no idea how to estimate the actual age you are in real life.

Apparently, in one recently taken picture, the image of me captured approximates that of a 47-year-old (as the How-old program defines a 47-year-old). In another recently taken picture, the image of me captured approximates that of a 31-year-old. And in yet another shot, the image of me captured approximates a 43-year-old. That might give me an idea of how old I appear to others, but it might not. It's just a dumb program with who-knows-what parameters programmed into it. Maybe those pictures were poorly shot. Maybe the absolute perfect shot of me, taken under ideal conditions, would appear to the How-old program to represent a 49-year-old (my actual age), but really who cares? We look however old we look. It's nothing that deserves that much attention.

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