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February 29, 2024

Google Gemini

Google apologized [last] Friday for its faulty rollout of a new artificial intelligence image-generator, acknowledging that in some cases the tool would ‘overcompensate’ in seeking a diverse range of people even when such a range didn’t make sense…

“The partial explanation for why its images put people of color in historical settings where they wouldn’t normally be found came a day after Google said it was temporarily stopping its Gemini chatbot from generating any images with people in them. That was in response to a social media outcry from some users claiming the tool had an anti-white bias in the way it generated a racially diverse set of images in response to written prompts…

“[Examples] that drew attention on social media this week were images that depicted a Black woman as a U.S. founding father and showed Black and Asian people as Nazi-era German soldiers.” AP News

Both sides argue that AI is clearly not yet ready to replace humans:

“For now, at least, generative AI absolutely should not be used to create learning materials for our schools, breaking stories in our newspapers, or be anywhere within a 10,000-mile radius of our government. It turns out the business of interpreting the billions of bits of information online to arrive at rational conclusions is still very much a human endeavor. It is still very much a subjective matter, and there is a real possibility that no matter how advanced AI becomes, it always will be…

“This may be a hard pill to swallow for companies that have invested fortunes in generative AI development, but it is good news for human beings, who can laugh at the fumbling failures of the technology and know that we are still the best arbiters of truth. More, it seems very likely that we always will be.”

David Marcus, Fox News

Image generators are profoundly strange pieces of software that synthesize averaged-out content from troves of existing media at the behest of users who want and expect countless different things. They’re marketed as software that can produce photos and illustrations — as both documentary and creative tools — when, really, they’re doing something less than that…

“That leaves their creators in a fitting predicament: In rushing general-purpose tools to market, AI firms have inadvertently generated and taken ownership of a heightened, fuzzy, and somehow dumber copy of corporate America’s fraught and disingenuous racial politics, for the price of billions of dollars, in service of a business plan to be determined, at the expense of pretty much everyone who uses the internet. They’re practically asking for it.”

John Herrman, New York Magazine

Other opinions below.

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From the Right

From the Left

A libertarian's take

“Once Google shut down Gemini’s image generation, users turned to probing its text output… It effortlessly wrote toasts praising Democratic politicians — even controversial ones such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) — while deeming every elected Republican I tried too controversial, even Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who had stood up to President Donald Trump’s election malfeasance. It had no trouble condemning the Holocaust but offered caveats about complexity in denouncing the murderous legacies of Stalin and Mao. It would praise essays in favor of abortion rights, but not those against…

“I actually think Google might also have performed a public service, by making explicit the implicit rules that recently have seemed to govern a great deal of decision-making in large swaths of tech, education and media sectors… Treat left-leaning sources as neutral; right-leaning sources as biased and controversial. Contextualize left-wing transgressions, while condemning right-coded ones. Fiscal conservatism is tolerable but social conservatism is beyond the pale. ‘Diversity’ applies to race, sex, ethnicity and gender identity, not viewpoint, religiosity, social class or educational attainment…

“These rules were always indefensible, which is why they rarely were defended outright. Humans are master rationalizers, and it was always easy to come up with some ostensibly neutral reason that certain kinds of views, and people, kept getting deplatformed… Then Google programmed the same sensibility into an AI, which proceeded to apply it without the human instinct for maintaining plausible deniability. Gemini said the quiet part so loudly that no one can pretend they didn’t hear.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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