Asian woman asks AI to make her photo more “professional”, AI makes her white

Aug 3, 2023

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Asian woman asks AI to make her photo more “professional”, AI makes her white

Aug 3, 2023

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Racial bias in AI models is something we’ve discussed before. Sadly, the problem seems to be persisting no matter how advanced AI programs get. A recent example from an Asian-American student proves this point. She uploaded her picture to an AI portrait generator, asking it to make her look more professional. Instead of formalizing her attire or something like that – AI turned her into a  Caucasian woman with blue eyes.

[Related reading: Tinder tests AI photo selection to help you find love]

A 24-year-old Asian-American MIT graduate Rona Wang has been experimenting with AI portrait generators recently. She gave Playground AI a shot, asking it to create a more “professional” LinkedIn profile photo. However, the AI model threw her an unpleasant surprise. It significantly altered her ethnic appearance, giving her a fairer complexion, dark blonde hair, and blue eyes. Rona tweeted the result and sparked loads of reactions.

As Twitter users argue, the algorithm seemingly misinterpreted the “professional” prompt, transforming Rona from an Asian woman into a white woman. “I was like, ‘Wow, does this thing think I should become white to become more professional?’” Rona told Boston.com. She admits that she laughed at the result at first. However, it just confirmed a problem we’ve all seen in AI tools multiple times: racial bias.

Are AI models racist?

“It’s kind of offensive,” Rona said, commenting on whether AI models are racist. “But at the same time I don’t want to jump to conclusions that this AI must be racist.”

The founder of Playground AI, Suhail Doshi, responded directly to Rona’s tweet. He said that that “the models aren’t instructable like that so it’ll pick any generic thing based on the prompt,” and that, unfortunately, “they’re not smart enough.” He said that he’d be happy to help Rona get a result she’d wanted but “it takes a bit more effort than something like ChatGPT.”

“Fwiw, we’re quite displeased with this and hope to solve it,” he concluded.

The comments on Rona’s tweet vary, ranging from accusing AI of racism to trying to explain what stands behind this transformation. There’s an interesting discussion in this thread. One user wrote that “the problem here is not in the model but the overall perception of AI being smart.” They added that Ai “doesn’t understand nuances and sometimes even the context of an image.”

“You think this doesn’t have to do with bias even though only, what, 10% of the world has blue eyes? *and* the original photo had brown eyes?” another user replied. “To your point, I do think it’s a bad model, but… really? no bias at all?”

I know very basically and superficially how AI models work, so I honestly can’t go into too much depth. But the fact remains that this isn’t the first example of racial bias in AI. It’s also probably not the last either. The critical question is whether and how the AI industry will resolve the issue because it definitely is there and we can’t just ignore it.

[via Next Shark]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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4 responses to “Asian woman asks AI to make her photo more “professional”, AI makes her white”

  1. Matt Nicki Lautemann Avatar
    Matt Nicki Lautemann

    AI isn’t all that amazing after all. At least not yet. So many examples of it creating inadequate and sometimes goofy results. This is another unfortunate example of it not being sub par.

  2. John Doe Avatar
    John Doe

    Racism exists because every human being has a corrupt heart. Sadly, you’ve bought into the narrative shared by big tech, the media, education, certain political groups, and of course the sexual revolution. Since everyone wants to point it out in everything, what’s YOUR solution? Talking about it is one thing (actually promoting it). How about people come up with a solution (since it’s every where), and actually do something about it?

  3. jsm Avatar
    jsm

    People who don’t understand racism and call everything racist that has anything to do with race are poor, rediculous and part of the problem.
    The exact same bullshit like racist cameras/sensors.
    Tech is NOT perfect and you are the problem if you treat it like it is.

  4. AI Racist Avatar
    AI Racist

    Sooo….: How many white women (let’s not overstrain the obsolete classification “caucasian”, shall we?) were in Playgroud AI’s training set? And how many asian ones? Shit in, shit out.
    And they artifial left eye does look spooky, be it blue or not.