Google’s effort to educate us on diversity extends beyond AI technology

The future is here. And it turns out to be very, very racist.

As the New York Post reported yesterday, Google’s Gemini GI image generator aims to have a lot of things. But historical accuracy is not among them.

If you ask the program to give you an image of the Founding Fathers of this country, the AI will return you images of black and Native American men signing what appears to be a version of the American Constitution.

At least that’s more accurate than the images of popes thrown up. A request for an image of one of the holy fathers gives up images of — among others — a Southeast Asian woman. Who knew?

Some people are surprised by this. I’m not.

Several years ago, I went to Silicon Valley to try to figure out what the hell was going on with Google Images, among other enterprises.

Because Google images were already throwing up a very specific type of bias.

If you typed in “gay couples” and asked for an image search, you got lots of happy gay couples. Ask for “straight couples” and you get images of, er, gay couples.

It was the same if you wanted to see happy couples of any orientation.

Ask for images of “black couples” and you got lots of happy black couples. Ask for “white couples” and you got black couples, or interracial couples. Many of them gay.

I asked people in Silicon Valley what the hell was going on and was told this was what they call “machine learning fairness.”

The idea is that we human beings are full of implicit bias and that as a result, we need the machines to throw up unbiased images.

Except that the machines were clearly very biased indeed. Much more so than your average human.

What became clear to me was that this was not the machines working on their own. The machines had been skewed by human interference.

I just checked again today and Google Images is still pulling the same trick.

Searching for "black couple" in Google Images gives you black couples -- but "white couple" gives you a number of mixed-race or even black couples.
Searching for “black couple” in Google Images gives you black couples — but “white couple” gives you a number of mixed-race or even black couples.

If you ask for images of gay couples, you get lots of happy gay couples. Ask for straight couples and the first things that come up are a piece asking whether straight couples should really identify as such. The second picture is captioned, “Queer lessons for straight couples.”

Shortly after, you get an elderly gay couple with the tag, “Advice for straight couples from a long-term gay couple.” Then a photo with the caption, “Gay couples have less strained marriages than straight couples.”

Again, none of this comes up if you search for “gay couples.” Then you get what you ask for. You are not bombarded with photos and articles telling you how superior straight couples are to gay couples.

It’s almost as though Google Images is trying to force-feed us something.

It is the same with race.

Ask Google Images to show you photos of black couples and you’ll get exactly what you ask for. Happy black couples. All heterosexual, as it happens.

But ask the same engine to show you images of white couples and two things happen.

You get a mass of images of black couples and mixed-race couples and then — who’d have guessed — mixed-race gay couples.

Why does this matter?

Firstly, because it is clear that the machines are not lacking in bias. They are positively filled with it.

It seems the tech wants to teach us all a lesson. It assumes that we are all homophobic white bigots who need re-educating. What an insult.

Secondly, it gives us a totally false image — literally — of our present. Now, thanks to the addition of Google Gemini, we can also be fed a totally false image of our past.

Yet the interesting thing about the past is that it isn’t the present. When we learn about the past, we learn that things were different from now. We see how things actually were and that is very often how we learn from it.

How were things then? How are they now? And how do they compare?

Faking the past or altering it completely robs us of the opportunity not just to understand the past but to understand the present.

Google has said it is going to call a halt on Gemini. Mainly because there has been backlash over the hilarious “diversity” of Nazi soldiers that it has thrown up.

If you search for Nazi officers, it turns out that there were black Nazis in the Third Reich. Who knew?

While Google Gemini gets over that little hurdle, perhaps it could realize that it’s not just the Gemini program that’s rotten but the whole darn thing.

Google is trying to change everything about the American and Western past.

I suggest we don’t let it.

There was an old joke told in the Soviet Union that now seems worryingly relevant to America in the age of AI: “The only thing that’s certain is the future. The past keeps on changing.”

Dems burn it all down to get Trump

Watching the treatment of Donald Trump in the last week, I’m reminded of a scene from the great film “A Man for All Seasons.”

An eager young lawyer is intent on prosecution and Sir Thomas More tells him that he guesses the young man would cut down every law in England to get the Devil.

The young lawyer says, “Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”

To which More replies, “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, the laws all being flat?”

Trump’s prosecutors certainly treat him like the devil. But have they really thought this latest move through?

What do they think this town will be like for other property developers now that this precedent has been set?

Is it unheard of for developers to exaggerate property values in this city? What about the seizure and effective confiscation of assets?

On a bigger scale, who do people think will run for high office in this country now that total financial destruction is the latest weapon in the prosecutor’s armory?

Sometimes the cost of getting your devil is far too high. And comes back at you.

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