A cautionary tale about humans creating biased AI models

 at TechCrunch: “Most artificial intelligence models are built and trained by humans, and therefore have the potential to learn, perpetuate and massively scale the human trainers’ biases. This is the word of warning put forth in two illuminating articles published earlier this year by Jack Clark at Bloomberg and Kate Crawford at The New York Times.

Tl;dr: The AI field lacks diversity — even more spectacularly than most of our software industry. When an AI practitioner builds a data set on which to train his or her algorithm, it is likely that the data set will only represent one worldview: the practitioner’s. The resulting AImodel demonstrates a non-diverse “intelligence” at best, and a biased or even offensive one at worst….

So what happens when you don’t consider carefully who is annotating the data? What happens when you don’t account for the differing preferences, tendencies and biases among varying humans? We ran a fun experiment to find out….Actually, we didn’t set out to run an experiment. We just wanted to create something fun that we thought our awesome tasking community would enjoy. The idea? Give people the chance to rate puppies’ cuteness in their spare time…There was a clear gender gap — a very consistent pattern of women rating the puppies as cuter than the men did. The gap between women’s and men’s ratings was more narrow for the “less-cute” (ouch!) dogs, and wider for the cuter ones. Fascinating.

I won’t even try to unpack the societal implications of these findings, but the lesson here is this: If you’re training an artificial intelligence model — especially one that you want to be able to perform subjective tasks — there are three areas in which you must evaluate and consider demographics and diversity:

  • yourself
  • your data
  • your annotators

This was a simple example: binary gender differences explaining one subjective numeric measure of an image. Yet it was unexpected and significant. As our industry deploys incredibly complex models that are pushing to the limit chip sets, algorithms and scientists, we risk reinforcing subtle biases, powerfully and at a previously unimaginable scale. Even more pernicious, many AIs reinforce their own learning, so we need to carefully consider “supervised” (aka human) re-training over time.

Artificial intelligence promises to change all of our lives — and it already subtly guides the way we shop, date, navigate, invest and more. But to make sure that it does so for the better, all of us practitioners need to go out of our way to be inclusive. We need to remain keenly aware of what makes us all, well… human. Especially the subtle, hidden stuff….(More)”