Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL)’s effort at AI has come a long way from the initial days of Google Search. Yet, Google’s AI efforts placed the firm in a tricky situation yesterday based on a Recode report. News has it that Google’s new Photo app is labeling African-Americans as “gorillas”.
Google unveiled the Photo app in May to show the growth of its machine learning efforts. The Photo app can store images and label distinct features with the help of an evolved AI computing. The app can label animals, cars, and even events such as graduations. Hence, user can just shoot pictures while the app does the heavy lifting of sorting them out into classes.
All looks well with the Photo App until it started labeling African-Americans as “gorillas”. Jacky Alcine, brought the issue to the attention of the world in a tweet. Google did a good job of sorting out the issue. Google’s Yonatan Zunger reached out to condemn the mistake and Google engineers did not waste time in fixing the issue.
In what would have sent Google on a PR fiasco similar to the one currently facing Facebook over its workforce diversity policies, someone opined that the Google Photo App is almost 100% accurate in its labelling of Whites. Zunger defused the bomb by responding that machine learning is hard because it was still mistaking white faces with dogs and seals a while back.
Facebook Has a Smarter AI
Google can learn one or two things from Facebook because Facebook (FB) as a smarter bot in its facial-recognition AI. Late last month, New Scientist reported that Facebook’s AI could recognize you even when your face is not visible. The AI code can identify distinct features in your pose, clothing, hairdo and other clues to identify you when you face is obscured.
A test of 40,000 public photos picked from Flickr with a mix of visible and obscured faces returned 83% accuracy. Facebook’s AI doesn’t just recognize humans as humans, it can recognize humans and identify individuals even without seeing their faces. Google’s AI still has trouble with humans in general not to mention the thought of knowing them by name.
Google Just Shot its Own AI Efforts in the Foot
Google is has many logs in the fire on the AI front, it recently revealed its calorie counting AI for dieters. It appears that Google doesn’t perfect code on a venture before it starts work on something else. Google’s Photo app is wrong to mistake dark-skinned people for gorillas. Zunger’s defense that the AI system was mistaking white faces for dogs and seals might defuse the racial bomb, but it doesn’t show Google’s AI as smart.
Whether they are called gorillas, dogs, seals, or cats, humans don’t deserve to be mistaken for animals by machines. In fact, humans won’t condone such attacks especially as issues concerning the “consciousness” of AI continues to arise in talks about ethics.