Gentlemen do truly prefer blondes, and ‘tall, dark, and handsome’ are the features of an ideal man.
This is according to artificial intelligence tools that learn from the billions of images on social media sites depicting beautiful people.
The Bulimia Project, an eating disorder awareness group, asked AI to produce the ‘perfect’ male and female bodies, according to what gets most engagement on social media.
Researchers from the organization found that the most desirable women had blonde hair, olive skin, brown eyes, and slim figures, while the ‘perfect’ male had dark, smoldering eyes, chiseled cheekbones and defined muscles.
Most of the AI results appeared to play up outdated standards of beauty – caucasian yet tanned, slim yet muscular, and overwhelmingly blonde – which hints at the tool’s implicit biases.
A majority of images generated showed blonde women with toned, slim bodies and tanned skin
Most images of the ‘perfect’ male showed men with dark hair and eyes and olive-toned skin as well as toned muscles and chiseled jawlines
The results skewed overwhelmingly white with only a few examples of people of color and adhered to what could now be deemed as outdated beauty standards
There were relatively few images depicting non-white ‘perfect’ people generated by the AI tools and published by the Bulimia Project, suggesting the tool has inherent bias toward whiteness
The Bulimia Project tested Artificial Intelligence image generators, including Dall-E 2, Stable Diffusion, and Midjourney, to reveal what the programs’ idea of the ‘perfect’ physique looks like in women and men.
The AI works by scouring the internet for images that already exist and designing a new image based on those results.
Because they don’t show their working it is unclear exactly how they came to their results.
But they are thought to take into consideration interactions with photos uploaded to social media, including likes and comments, as well as internet searches.
Nearly 40 percent of the images showing ‘perfect’ women were blonde, 30 percent had brown eyes, and over half had olive skin.
Almost 70 percent of the ‘perfect’ men had brown hair and 23 percent had brown eyes. Similar to women, the vast majority of men were olive-skinned and nearly half had facial hair.
Many of them were finely-toned, and images showed many of them with almost cartoonish features such as a plump lips, wrinkle-free and pore-free complexions, and perfect ski-slope noses, all features that are highly coveted and often imitated using plastic surgery and fillers.
DailyMail.com then put those attributes into Midjourney and asked it to create images of fake people. It returned images so finely tuned that they would not look out of place in a glossy magazine.
The report from the Bulimia Project concluded: ‘In the age of Instagram and Snapchat filters, no one can reasonably achieve the physical standards set by social media.
‘So, why try to meet unrealistic ideals? It’s both mentally and physically healthier to keep body image expectations squarely in the realm of reality.’
James Campigotto, a data journalist in Florida who helped work on the Bulimia Project study, told Fox News that it was meant to explore the biases and dangers of AI and the power of social media, which is becoming an issue of growing concern, especially among young people.
A 2019 study from the University of Montreal set out to investigate the deleterious effects of long-term social media use on body image.
Teenagers spend an average of nine hours online a day and, simultaneously, rates of depression among young people have reached record highs.
A team there followed teenagers throughout their high school careers and found that certain forms of social media and TV shows fueled spirals of depression and self-consciousness.
For four years, the research team kept up with 4,000 teenagers between the ages of 12 and 16 throughout their high school years. Interestingly, each year, teens spent more time on social media and watching television than they had the previous year.
With each passing year, they also displayed more depression symptoms, on average.
For each hour more a teenager spent on social media or watching TV, they reported feeling less confident and more depressed.
Several of the AI-generated results depicted unrealistic body standards and cartoonish, animated features
The images generated by different AI tools showed images of men who appear to be highly photoshopped, tan, and chiseled
Social media and the images it depicts have been blamed for an uptick in depression and associated suicides among teens even before the Covid pandemic.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24 in the U.S.
Nearly 20 percent of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide and 9 percent have made an attempt to take their lives, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The fashion industry has also embraced AI-generated images of idealized humans to sell its merchandise.
Levi’s, for example, has teamed up with an entirely AI modeling agency that uses computer programs to create lifelike models.
And in March, the three female models on the cover of Singapore Vogue were all AI-generated.
The project was masterminded by Varun Gupta, creative director of content agency We Create Films, who said: ‘I strongly believe AI has enabled us to realize the true potential of our imagination.’