Google should hire a black employee or two, for a change. This is what you get when there are no black folks working there to test this kind of rubbish app on.
Google's new Photos software automatically labelled images of black people as "gorillas". The ad giant has since apologised. Mountain View's hugely embarrassing blunder comes just one month after it launched its cloud-hosted photo storage service, and made a big deal out of its machine-learning features. Google also warned …
It is not half baked. It probably works as it should in 99.9999% of the time. however, when you have hundreds of millions of users, that still means hundreds of cases that are wrong.
It's like saying Google Maps is half baked because there is a street that is missing in your town. It's still damn useful.
The whole point of machine learning software is that it gets fed input, does a classification and generates output.
The software is not broken, it just has not been fed with good data. It clearly needs more black people in its learning set so it can tell the difference between a gorilla and a black person. This is no different from the recent NSFW classification by, IIRC, FB that classified pictures of girly bits as butterflies.
But no, the numpties think there's racist software that goes
if (image_property.black_face) printf("gorilla.\n");
These classifications come from what people type in. As black people can call other black people "nigger" without the PC alarms going off, we'll also see these classification engines generate outputs like "nigger", "bro"... and no doubt the technically illiterate will think Google added more code that says
if (image_property.black_face) printf("nigger");
I think it goes back further than the web... many companies figured the risk assessment and decided to let their customers/users do their testing. It's just taken the software companies time to figure out how in-house testing affects the bottom line. The difference is that generally software won't kill or maim people compared to say a car or other piece of equipment.
"However, the question has to be asked: why did Google release such a half-baked app for showtime in the first place?"
Come on Kelly you've been in IT journalism for long enough to know the answer to that question. Everything Google does is a half baked "beta" that may be cancelled at any time and with minimum notice, even services that no longer have the beta tag like GMail.
"How do you define an algorithm to describe a chair, something to sit on. Is that algorithm good enough to correctly distinguish a dining table chair, a stool, sofa, a park bench?"
That's a good question. And what's particularly interesting is that scientists do not even know how the human mind is able to distinguish the incredible variety of things that are subsumed under the heading "chairs".
Because intelligence of any sort, artificial or otherwise, is hard.
Question : Why is being called a Gorilla an insult ? What's wrong with Gorillas ?
And the AI appeared to do a reasonable job in identifiying that the iamge was indeed an animal, with a black face, eyes mouth and nose.... The mistake was just the type of animal..
So everyone decides that this should be treated as racist, or as an insult, cmon folks, the problem lies with the meatbags not with the AI.
Unintentional from an AI standpoint...
Yup, the important bit about an insult is the intent. A "perceived insult" isn't actually an insult at all, just a misunderstanding.
Trouble is that the legal system tends to reward people for acting pigshit-thick and misunderstanding as much as possible.
In the absence of the context of the treatment of those of African origin - you would be quite right to point out elements of faux-outrage, or victim identification.
But as they were often portrayed as animals/less than human, there is good reason that it may make some bridle at the inadvertent linking.
Yes, AI is hard. Google excels at coming up with fast and useful answers to questions of nearly impossible scale. It's in their designs, their software, and their mentality. As a result, Googlers have trouble comprehending situations where one imperfect answer may have dire consequences.
Many of the above comments are in direct correlation to what I initially wrote.. The problem is with the meatbags not the AI.
The AI has no concept of "insult", it did not intentionally create this situation. The AI analysed an image and found a match for what is characterises as a Gorilla, nothing racial here..
The only time that it becomes a racial problem is when the PC start shouting, because up until that point it was , and is, just a computer algorithm trying to determine the real-world equivalant object from a bitmap.
By reading anything more into it than that should really make you should think about your own mind's processes..
Unless of course certain amongst the El Reg forum believe in a more biblical approach to evolution.....I can hear Darwin sobbing to himself with his face cupped in his hands...
My daughter reached the linguistic ability of being able to put adjectives and nouns together quite early on, but her speech was somewhat indistinct. "White car" sounded more like "Whan Car"... which she shouted very loudly whilst pointing at at a passing BMW with windows wound down, lowered suspension, trailing "aromatic" smoke like a Pacific 4-6-2 and at an gap between tracks 19 and 20 of the album "Murder Junkies" that had been pounding out of the ICE as it approached... one can only be grateful that the driver was probably momentarily suffering hearing loss as a result of the incredible volume.
Genius. I once blagged a ticket for a Liverpool-Fulham football match, separated from my friend and in a stand with the opposing Fulham supporters. Liverpool won 2-0, met with much hurling of obscenities by those around me, including the man next to me who was with his son (I know, great example!). At the end, this lad, probably about 7 yrs old, turned to his Dad, and pointing to me, says "he's not made a sound for 90 minutes, do you think he's a Liverpool fan?" His Dad said something like "No, don't be silly, be quiet", and I just thought was that he was one of the most observant people there. I wanted to tell his Dad, but chickened out!
Why 2 year old likes watching Play Doh videos on YouTube (don't ask) and has seen me use Google Now. So the other day she was trying to tell my phone 'Okay googoo.... paedo videos'. Also she likes 'surprise egg videos' (again, don't ask), Google Now interprets 'egg videos' as 'xvideos', so thats one feature that won't be returning to my phone any time soon.
Very true....When there were no black people where I lived,......when I did talk to a guy (I must have been 6 or 7 ) I asked why the palms of his hands were white (Mum and Dad gobs wide open!!!).... he said it was due the spray paint job he had from god.....he had to put his hands on the wall.....Fab that must have been great carried on been a 6 year old.......only a polnker would see this as racist.....work in progress....I would love to be compared to such a great animal!!
"Except Google don't have any sort of noble rationale behind why they are doing something so utterly stupid and offensive."
Look, no one hates Google as much as I do, but they didn't do this intentionally. And when they say "We’re appalled and genuinely sorry that this happened" I actually believe them. And I don't believe much of what they say, I promise you.
The charge of racism is directed towards the programmers for not having used enough photos of black people
So "racism" now extends to using a biased training set? Oh brave new world.
"Be offended often. It helps in not noticing the real problems."
Implicit racism informed the selection bias so subtly that those developing the tool failed to notice that the samples fed into their tool were not representative of the extent of variation existing outside the confines of the Silicon Valley/Bay Area.
>So "racism" now extends to using a biased training set?
Let's read the first sentence of Wikipedia's current entry on racism: "Racism consists of ideologies and practices that seek to justify, or cause, the unequal distribution of privileges, rights or goods among different racial groups."
So we have the right---or perhaps privilege---of being recognised as an instance of H. sapiens sapiens apparently being caused to be distributed unequally via the use of a biased training set. QED
Don't dismiss the possibility of racists circlejerks tagging pictures in bulk to "train" the system whilst it is young.
I doubt these idiots are capable of such insight thou. Google only mistake was probably to only use pictures from Google+ ...
This link shows some of the ways they are teaching the image recognition software, ends up with some surreal photos.when they try and get it to interpret some images, clouds seem to give it some problems it see faces and things in the patterns.
This is clearly NOT a case of racism. It's plain stupidity without any additives!. ;-)
That depends on who happens to be reading it at the time.
Someone will always imply something that was never there in the first place..
'Someone will always imply something that was never there in the first place.'
I think you mean 'infer something'.
When you imply something, you suggest an idea without stating it directly. If you infer something, you imagine that an idea has been suggested but not directly stated. That's why when you 'infer' something you bring your own idea into what you heard or read. (Latin inferre - 'bring in')
The problem with machine learning is that once you run out of material to teach it, you wont make any further progress. And, of corurse, you can never be sure what the machine has learned, exactly.
The classical example (whether true or not) is the military attempt to teach a computer to spot tanks hidden in bushes. So they photographed lots of bushes with tanks, and lots of bushes without tanks. After some crunching, the computer was able to tell the difference.
Real life tests, however, failed utterly. Eventually someone noticed that all the pictures with tanks were taken on sunny days, and the other pictures on cloudy days. The computer had learned to tell the diference between nice weather and cloudy weather.
This is why you need a tremendous amount of data to train the machine with.
Along similar lines re computers "learning" the wrong thing. I once heard a story about war game software related to convoys and navy escorts*. One of the important things about a convoy is that it travels at the speed of the slowest ship in the convoy. The navy escort of course has weapons and can shoot and sink ships - to guard against attacks on the convoy by the enemy.
In one simulation of an enemy attack, the navy ships started shooting at the slowest members of their own convoy, causing them to sink, and thus speeding up the whole convoy.
Not quite the real world example one wants.
*Might have been US software.
I heard a slightly different version of that story - in the version I heard, the US tried to teach an AI system to tell the difference between US and Russian tanks. However of course all their images of their own tanks were taken from close-up, whereas the images they had of Russian tanks were naturally taken from a distance, then enlarged; naturally the system learned to differentiate between high-quality and low-quality images, rather than between tank types...
Could someone who really actually finds this "offensive" (not just thinks that other people might find it "offensive") please explain why? Does your religion view gorillas as "unclean", for example?
In my part of the world gorillas are seen rather positively: strong, noble, vegetarian, ...
Hmm, you have a point. There are few things I find as objectionable as 'forced outrage', where no one is really that bothered, but people feel the need to be offended (for political / ideological reasons), even if they are not. Is this one of those times? Is anyone really that worried what some kind of image analysis software did? I'm sure it didn't mean to offend.
"but people feel the need to be offended"
People don't feel the need to *be* offended - they feel the need to ^claim^ to be offended on someone else's behalf and so demonstrate they are more noble than anyone who claims to be offended less. This of course makes them dishonest slimeballs - that or just too stupid to understand what they are doing.
Having seen IBMs take on artificial vision (http://www-01.ibm.com/common/ssi/cgi-bin/ssialias?infotype=PM&subtype=SP&htmlfid=YTD03119USEN/ ) at Hursley, it seems Google are still in the 1960s when it comes to processing.
Most impressive things I saw, when they ran the network over a video of a park scene, were:
1) Although it had never been told what a skateboard was, it correctly labelled a skateboader in the same box as "cyclist". So it had worked out that "cyclist = human on wheels" and then re-applied that to the skateboarder.
2) Correctly following a cyclist dismounting, and changing the label from cyclist to pedestrian.
3) Correctly identifying a static shape (person sitting on wall) as human (technically very high probability of being a human).
Spoiler alert: some if not all of this project is funded by the DoD ...
Given that an algorithm has no sense of morality, political correctness, or apathy, I can't really fault Google for hosing this one.
Is it wrong? Yup. Definitely not gorillas.
Would it be just as messed up if it tagged a fat, white, moustachioed, speedo-wielding guy as a walrus? Yup. How about if it tagged an anorexic person (or the average model) as a 'stick figure' or a proctological exam photo as 'middle management?'
I doubt the tagging engine is racist. It made a best guess, and that guess was, unfortunately, wrong. It needs to be corrected, and with luck it won't do the same thing again.
But how do you draw the line? Should it be able to perceive the difference between a person (white or black or any other color) in a gorilla suit, vs a real gorilla? What about at a distance, where features are difficult to distinguish? How could it tell black people from gorillas, or white people from bowling pins, fat people from boulders or skinny people from scarecrows?
Image recognition is built into our brains, and it's a skill most of us use all the time. Since machines don't 'see' the same way we do, there are bound to be issues describing what an image contains to them. Want a good example? Ask a person who was born blind to describe what a fire looks like. Or ask a lifelong deaf person to describe the sound of a distant sporting event's crowd. Or ask Paris to explain simple mathematics.....
That the software can fairly reliably tag images correctly is impressive. That it makes mistakes shows it's faults. If it learns from it's mistakes, it's time to unplug it....
Mine's the one with the bacon, ham, cheese and sardine sarney in the pocket...
If this is anything like the quality of the "similar" images shown up in Google's reverse image search, it doesn't entirely surprise me. It often gets things completely wrong.
You can see why it thought an image was "similar", but it's often because the "similar" image has broadly the same shape layout and/or colour scheme even if the subject itself isn't similar.
It usually matches photos of people with other people but it's no better than that; for example, photos of adult women might return "similar" images of men, children or even babies.
I'm not even sure if that general algorithm is actually tuned for people and/or faces, or it's just passable at (e.g.) matching people with other people because they have lots of skin and the same basic structure. My hunch is that it's the latter.
Given how creepily efficient some modern recognition software can be, it's slightly surprising that the Google reverse image search is "only" that good, if one considers it good in the first place.
((*) i.e. upload an image, find all instances of it indexed by Google as well as allegedly similar ones)
This isn't that surprising a mistake really. It probably uses a couple hundred reference points compared to the hundreds of thousands a human would use to determine what it's looking at. Mistakes are to be expected. Honestly, it's not like the machine is actually capable of racism. I mean it mistakes white people for dogs for crying out loud. How does that happen? At least gorillas are primates.
Anyway, I'll bet if you got the same people with a different angle or different lighting it'd be able to identify them with no problem.
Offense can only be legitimately taken if the assumption of intent behind the error is shown to be true.
Until then it is an embarrassing thing to have happened, and absolutely requires correction lest the image and the label it was erroneously tagged with become widely dispersed among those who *would* use it with intent to offend or denigrate, but is in and of itself absent malice.
Of course, this dissemination of the image and tag is more likely to happen if one takes to twitter to complain instead of contacting Google directly.
And while I can see the point of a search engine company wanting to figure out how to index images without metadata, I can lament it doing so as another brick in the wall.
"Of course, this dissemination of the image and tag is more likely to happen if one takes to twitter to complain instead of contacting Google directly."
Yes. I don't doubt the person who posted to Twitter was outraged and/or offended but instead of complaining to Google he decided to stir up more outrage by Streisanding the incident. Now that poor woman has an unflattering picture scattered all over the place when it would normally have only been seen by her own circle of friends.
Obviously this was an innocent mistake, but it raises interesting questions, I think. Suppose one of those horrible self-checkout machines has been designed to spot suspicious activity and suspend the transaction until a human cashier can confirm it's legit. It's pretty advanced and can learn based on whether the transactions it flags prove to be fraudulent or not, it also uses a camera to read "micro expressions" of the customers. At least that's what it's supposed to be doing.
But supposed it just so happens most of the people trying to rip the store off are in fact Black. So the machine begins to associate African facial features with fraud. At that point, would it be fair to say the AI has become racist?
While tagging African-Americans as gorillas is clearly unacceptable in any human/social context, especially for a company of such prominence, I am pretty sure there was nothing premeditated about it, and I suspect that proper classification by AI/ML is a very tough technical problem, including the following consideration.
Any AI engine is fuzzy to some extent, and in this context you need to design and "train" it to discriminate (in the technical sense only, the words "discriminator" and/or "discriminant" are used in the field) between a dark primate-like shape that is a gorilla and a dark primate-like shape that is a human. I suppose one can do it rather well in most cases, but then there will inevitably be false negatives and false positives. One does not expect 100% accuracy from AI, ever.
So suppose some rare cases are found - and mercilessly denounced in the press and social media as unspeakably and unforgivably offensive, with at least some justification - where a large African-American is tagged as a gorilla. The boffins quickly get to work, and tweak the parameters of the AI engine in the "right" direction, effectively moving the discriminator surface a bit in the parameter space, reducing the "gorilla" region and expanding the "human" region. I can easily imagine that the adjusted engine may now err by very occasionally tagging a gorilla as an African-American, which will be just as offensive for exactly the same reasons... Ouch...
One cannot afford to err in either direction in this context, can one? I suspect this cannot be expected of AI with a 100% guarantee. Anything less than 100% will eventually offend, though.
Check out this Google Research Blog where they get some insight into what ANNs (artificial neural networks or "AI") have actually learned by feeding them random noise or images of clouds and (simplifying here) "asking them" to identify buildings or animals.
The identification is, without the G-word, one of dark skinned higher apes and, on a naive level, this is not really a failure: the gorillas, the chimpanzees and the bonobos are our closest living relatives. And by close, I mean really close, on a deep genetic level. The connotations of the word are terrible, but that is because of centuries of human racism, not because ANNs (or Google) are "racist". The reason white people aren't identified as such is because we are the mutants who lost our ability to produce large amounts of melanin, resulting in a very obvious visual difference: one which, to ANNs, can appear much more significant than it really is. In fact, it just means we can tolerate cooler climes somewhat better and intense sunlight a hell of a lot worse. They'll have pulled the ANN now, but I'll bet that a 'negative' of a group of white people would also have produced the same result.
Where other visual indicators are more significant, the ANN picks that. Note that, despite the subject not being white, the last picture in the tweet is correctly identified as being one of a graduation.
Inference engines (I refuse to call them AIs) are rather likely to make inferences we may not like as they develop. But when that happens, do we accept the results and refine the feedback based on that, or do we deny the results and give the engine feedback based on our own biases?
And while this is indeed an embarrassing result, the only way to improve things is to gather more data from users, so it has to be in play while it's making these mistakes. Ever notice the kind of conclusions a young child will make before they 'know' better (or acquire prejudices) and start watching what they say? Yeah, we're at that stage, and Google will get better at discerning man from beast as time goes on.
Now hear me out, this isn't a racism thing (no, really).
Assuming that this "machine learning" software gets its info from the interwebs, then it could have come to the conclusion that "gorilla" ≈ "attractive".
The confusion arising from this: http://goo.gl/IcM7UI
The more it sees the term "gorilla" equating to "attractive" then it associates the term but without the context to differentiate. And importantly - it has nothing to do with skin colour, just word meaning.
Then the story becomes something else entirely. We should perhaps be more worried that a piece of software has gained enough sentience to develop preferences regarding how attractive it finds people.
Well I'd Date that ape !
Really....do a pout with a dark face and expect an AI to discern like a Human ?
This is embarrassing but taking offense is duJour, and quite boring.
They need to step up their software or pull it.
Mind you DO we REALLY want Face recog to get so good we have zero privacy left ?
Can I get it to recognize my mulatto face as "Dog" so that it goes unnoticed by the Thought Police ?!
She's a real looker so I don't think she'll suffer in the long run, and the racist angle is just lame.
The AI just calls out what it thinks it sees, and it's as stupid as calling that Corgie a Cat.
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