19 April 2024

Even For AI, White Is Right: Photo enhancing bot turns Asian woman white when asked to beautify portrait

2 min read

Even For AI, White Is Right: Photo enhancing bot turns Asian woman white when asked to beautify portrait

An Asian-American who was experimenting with AI bots to beautify her portrait and make it look professional found that none of them worked for her. One of them in fact turned her white, removing all her Mongoloid features, and giving her European features instead

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In a rather bizarre incident, a 24-year-old Asian-American MIT graduate, Rona Wang, discovered while using an AI image generator, that the bot’s idea of “professionalizing” her headshot was to alter her appearance to look white.

This meant removing her Mongoloid features such as the shape of her eyelids, the colour of her eyes, her skin tone, the shape and colour of her lips, the shape of her face and the colour of her hair–basically, it meant giving her a completely new and alien face.

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This incident gained significant attention when she shared it online, leading to viral discussions and media coverage.

Playground AI, the company behind the image editor, received criticism for the AI’s biased output. The CEO, Suhail Doshi, responded to the backlash with rhetorical questions, suggesting that one instance of bias does not necessarily indicate a systematic problem in the AI’s training.

“If I roll a dice just once and get the number 1, does that mean I will always get the number 1?” he said. “Should I conclude based on a single observation that the dice is biased to the number 1 and was trained to be predisposed to rolling a 1?”

However, Wang and others have highlighted that racial bias is a recurring issue in AI tools. While she had been using AI image generators for some time, this particular incident felt more personal and disconcerting to her. Wang emphasized the importance of software developers being aware of these biases and taking steps to mitigate them.

She initially hesitated to label the AI as explicitly racist but later expressed her concerns about the racial biases that exist in AI tools. Many others have also faced similar issues, where AI image generators have inaccurately depicted them or produced racist outputs.

“Racial bias is a recurring issue in AI tools,” she said. “I haven’t gotten any usable results from AI photo generators or editors yet,” she said

This incident serves as another example of AI systems making significant errors, despite companies rapidly integrating such software into various domains, including workforce replacements. The imperfections and biases in AI technology highlight the need for ongoing improvement and ethical considerations when developing and deploying AI tools.