Psycho AI: Seems Possible

September 29, 2022

As if we needed to be convinced, scientists at MIT conducted an experiment that highlights the importance of machine learning data quality. The U.S. Sun reports, “Rogue Robot: ‘Psychopath AI’ Created by Scientists who Fed It Content from ‘Darkest Corners of Web’.” Citing this article from the BBC, writer Jona Jaupi tells us the demented AI is aptly named Norman (as in Psycho’s Norman Bates). We also learn:

“The aim of this experiment was to see how training AI on data from ‘the dark corners of the net’ would alter its viewpoints. ‘Norman’ was pumped with continuous image captions from macabre Reddit groups that share death and gore content. And this resulted in the AI meeting traditional ‘psychopath‘ criteria, per psychiatrists. Researchers came to their diagnosis after showing ‘Norman’ the Rorschach test. The test comprises a series of inkblots and depending on how viewers interpret them, they can indicate mental disorders. AI with neutral training interprets the images as day-to-day objects like umbrellas. However, ‘Norman’ appeared to perceive the images as executions and car crashes.”

Lovely. This horror-in-horror-out result should be no surprise to anyone who follows developments in AI and machine learning. The researchers say this illustrates AI bias is not the fault of algorithms themselves but of the data they are fed. Perhaps, but that is a purely academic distinction as long as unbiased datasets remain figments of imagination. While some point to synthetic data as the solution, that approach has its own problems. Despite the dangers, the world is being increasingly run by algorithms. We are unlikely to reverse course, so each development team will just have to choose which flawed method to embrace.

Cynthia Murrell, September 29, 2022

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