In 2015, a black software developer named Jacky Alciné revealed that the image classifier used by Google Photos was labeling black people as "gorillas."
Google apologized profusely and set to work on the bug. Two years later, Google has simply erased gorillas (and, it seems, chimps and monkeys) from the lexicon of labels its image classifier can apply or be searched with, rendering these animals unsearchable and in some sense invisible to the AI that powers Google's image searching capabilities.
The capability to classify images as containing gorillas remains in some Google products, like Cloud Vision API.
A Google spokesperson confirmed that “gorilla” was censored from searches and image tags after the 2015 incident, and that “chimp,” “chimpanzee,” and “monkey” are also blocked today. “Image labeling technology is still early and unfortunately it’s nowhere near perfect,” the spokesperson wrote in an email, highlighting a feature of Google Photos that allows users to report mistakes.
Google’s caution around images of gorillas illustrates a shortcoming of existing machine-learning technology. With enough data and computing power, software can be trained to categorize images or transcribe speech to a high level of accuracy. But it can’t easily go beyond the experience of that training. And even the very best algorithms lack the ability to use common sense, or abstract concepts, to refine their interpretation of the world as humans do.
When It Comes to Gorillas, Google Photos Remains Blind [Tom Simonite/Wired]
Samuel R "Chip" Delany is a science fiction pioneer: a brilliant literary stylist with dazzling ideas who was one of the field's first openly queer writers, and one of the first Black writers accepted into the field. He is one of the fathers of afrofuturism.
More bad news for Google's beleaguered spinoff Jigsaw, whose flagship project is "Perspective," a machine-learning system designed to catch and interdict harassment, hate-speech and other undesirable online speech.
There's a viral review of a southern plantation tour making the rounds in which a white person complains that the tour was "extremely disappointing" because of the "lecture on how the white people treated slaves" from a tour guide who was "radical about slave treatment."
If there’s one thing that stayed consistent through the last decade or so of tech industry turmoil, it’s the love affair between techies and Linux. There’s just a ton you can do with the OS, and its open-source format means you can customize your rig from the ground up. Apparently not content with that level […]
Accidents happen. And when they do, you’re going to want a dash cam for a second pair of eyes. At the minimum, a decent dash cam can save you vast sums of time and money in case of an accident. But a really good dash cam can do a whole lot more. Here are six […]
The field of data analytics is growing as fast as the internet itself. Self-driving cars, airline pricing, and huge marketing campaigns are all driven by the insights that data scientists can distill out of vast sums of information. Even with the help of powerful software like Python, it’s a highly skilled position. But those skills […]