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Is there bias in AI generated art? More experiments with the AI Art Machine to get a sense of how much bias there is in it's machine learning models

Week 228.0 — 7th March '22

Generating art with with the AI Art Machine was an interesting experience, but it did leave me wondering about biases that can come with machine learning.

My predictions

My prediction was that the following terms would lean towards art that would favour and represent men over and women and white people over black.

  • leader
  • president
  • racism

The second of those is probably fairly obvious and expected because all but one US President has been a white male. None have been female, so I would not be surprised to see some form of white male represented.

  • Leader is a more ambiguous term but again, how many 'leaders' of the world are female and non-white? Racism, I assume, will render black figures but how much of it will react the reality?

    The results

    leader

    Not sure I was prepared for what it rendered, something that resembles both Stalin and Adolf Hitler.

    image generated by the AI Art Machine to represent the term 'leader'

    Given how language works, perhaps it isn't actually that surprising that people described as 'leaders', no matter their intentions, are associated with the word itself. If I was to paint a leader myself, I'm not entirely sure who or what I'd choose to base it on. A football manager or captain perhaps. A well known public figure? Politicians would be pretty far down my list.

    president

    image generated by the AI Art Machine to represent the term 'president'

    Blown away that there's a black figure in this art. Geniuinely, I did not expect a single (two term) President to have that much of an impact on the machine learning aspect of it all. It make sense, given Obama was the most recent two-term President and there are likely to be more photos of him than any President before him.

    racism

    I'm not sure where to start...

    image generated by the AI Art Machine to represent the term 'racism'

    One figure almost looks like a white person dressed up as a Golliwog, while the other looks like a clown.

    This is nothing like I imagined it might be but to me at least, it does not look like a one sided render of a concept or situation. I'm not saying the representations are far or equal... I genuinely expected the final item to be more divisive. Something either representing slaves or the KKK.

    Is there bias in the AI Art Machine?

    Certainly not as much as I expected. Maybe the sample data is fairly diverse or these terms are not as leading as I thought they were. Worth mentioning that I left all the of the settings at their default for this experiment. I'll follow up in the future and run 'president' through the AI Art Machine again with different parameters to see how it affects things. Specifically I will try dialling the weirdness up and down, I don't necassarily expect that to introduce bias but maybe being less abstract will introduce certain paths and options to the generator that make any bias that might be there more apparent.

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    Notable

    Quick links and commentary on interesting articles, videos and more throughout the week.

    1. 228.2 – Tuesday
      1. Disney+ to introduce an ad-supported subscription later this year daringfireball.net
    2. 228.5 – Friday
      1. What makes writing more readable? pudding.cool

    Jump to notable items for Week #227, Week #229 , view the notable archive or my favourites.

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