‘Racist’ Google Photos Mistakes Black People for Gorillas and White People for Dogs

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Top Tier Gear USA

As Google’s Chief Architect of Social Yonatan Zunger put it, “Machine learning is hard.”

Apparently so.

A few days ago, an African American using Google Photos was surprised to log in and find a new folder had tagged him and a friend as “gorillas”.


Nice. If Google Photos was a flag, Walmart would be banning it right about now.

People, as socially engineered to do, freaked out. The Tweet prompted thousands of retweets and a hasty response from Google’s Zunger who worked to fix the problem.

Following an outcry of racism in the system, Zunger replied that Google Photos was also misidentifying Caucasian people as dogs and seals.

Screenshot 2015-07-06 at 1.05.24 AM

Machines have to be properly trained, according to Brian Brackeen, CEO of Kairos, a facial recognition business. “It’s scarily similar to how a child learns,” Brackeen said. Really? How many children do you know that can’t tell the difference between dogs, seals, people and gorillas?

Google is just the latest company to have facial recognition issues, though. Flickr’s facial recognition software identifies both black and white people as not just apes, but as other kinds of animals as well. Nikon ran into trouble when their “racist” software kept telling Asians they were blinking in their photos. HP has had facial recognition problems, too. The list goes on and on.

While Google did work to set the problem straight and “racist” facial recognition aside, this does raise important and unnerving questions about the biometric, A.I.-controlled future we’re steadily marching towards.

What happens when the computers we are being forced to entrust with so much get such simple things like this wrong? Think about what would happen by the time we’re forced to rely on facial recognition to travel, access our bank accounts, or make purchases. Mastercard, for example, is rolling out “selfie” biometric checkout this fall. Is some computer somewhere going to see gorillas and dogs in the checkout line when someone tries to buy something?

This news isn’t very reassuring in our increasingly computer-controlled world. We are being rushed into reliance on these artificial intelligence overlords who apparently have a hard time learning (much like children we are told), and can’t even tell the difference between people, apes, gorillas, dogs, seals and other wildlife.

Is that because artificial intelligence equates us with apes and canines? Guess that’s yet another issue…

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