I calculated the average face of a UK Member of Parliament and here’s what I found
The UK Parliament Digital Service has recently released an archive of official portraits of MPs shot by photographer Chris McAndrew (under a CC BY licence! Open Data, yay!) As I’m playing with image manipulation and Machine Learning to train a cohort of medical researchers, I thought the portraits would make an excellent test of what’s possible in the wild.
Using Machine Learning on faces has recently been subject of controversy, when researchers at Stanford University developed an algorithm that detects whether the face in a photo belongs to a gay person. Steering away from controversy, I thought that it would be interesting to find out what the average MP looks like. There has been a good deal of research on this concept, some of which is rather catchy. In 2015 the Guardian reported that we tend to find average faces the most attractive. I’m not sure this applies to MPs (and let’s avoid all jokes about average, i.e. centrist, faces), but here we go.
This is the average face of a British Member of Parliament. So angelic that it borders the uncanny valley.
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So, what does the average MP look like then?
Well, the first thing that pops to my mind is: white, male. Blue eyed. A slightly feminine version of Nick Clegg. Vaguely David Cameronish or Tony Blairish. Maybe a young Harold Wilson. But most definitely this face depicts a white male. This is not surprising, given than only 208 out of 650 MPs are women, less than a third of the total. In fact, if we look at the average face of male MPs, we get a face that is not very different. For comparison, look at the average female MP:
The representation of ethnic minorities is also very low in Westminster, and the whiteness of the average…