At this point, we all know that a life on the internet means that our information—from our browsing history to our faces—is being used by entities much larger and scarier and more faceless than ourselves. Very cool! Worth it! We also know that the technology used to sort such data (aka algorithms) is often quite reductive and wonky. Also very cool!
Now, a tool called ImageNet Roulette is showing us just how reductive and wonky those classifications can be. It was shared on Twitter yesterday and naturally, things really snowballed from there:
The site, which describes itself as “a provocation designed to help us see into the ways that humans are classified in machine learning systems,” has already dragged our colleagues at Jezebel, while our friends at Lifehacker found out just how problematic algorithms like these can be. Here at Splinter, we decided to turn the camera outward...toward the 2020 Democratic candidates. We chose recent photos and tried to be fair(ish) in the shots we picked. For better or worse, the results did not disappoint.
A different image of Bernie returned the word “biographer.” Bernie: a man of history and a rock god!
Lmao. I was thinking more “bellboy,” but hotelman works.
Multiple photos of Elizabeth Warren were simply labeled “face.” Not wrong!
I— uh— no comment.
This is where we’re reminded that while it’s fun to have this robot dance for us and spit out attributes as it collects our data, AI is ingrained with all sorts of deeply serious issues, many of which reflect the issues of living, breathing humans, and all of which have very real effects. This is the first non-white person I put into the tool. Not great.
Racist AND sexist, got it.
Is this an improvement? I honestly can’t say.
Is this oddly specific one perhaps a glimpse into the future?? Wow. Watch this space.
Look, this one is way too easy for a man who has really been showing his age lately. Instead, I’ll leave you with the findings of my colleague, Paul Blest:
DJ Joey B. A much better job for him than President of the United States, don’t you think?