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Google Halts Gemini’s AI’s Image Generator Amidst Ethical Concerns and Bias Criticism

ByHuey Yee Ong

Feb 27, 2024
Google Halts Gemini's AI's Image Generator Amidst Ethical Concerns and Bias Criticism

Google Halts Gemini’s AI’s Image Generator Amidst Ethical Concerns and Bias Criticism

Google has temporarily disabled the people imagery feature of its Gemini AI. This decision comes in the wake of widespread criticism after the AI was found to generate images that inappropriately represented historical and fictional characters across various ethnicities. The controversy highlights the challenges tech giants face in developing AI technologies that are both innovative and sensitive to the complex nuances of race, ethnicity, and historical accuracy.

Gemini, previously known as Bard, is Google’s advanced chatbot equipped with image generation capabilities. It sparked public outcry when users observed it producing artworks where characters such as World War II soldiers and Vikings were depicted as people of color, raising questions about the AI’s understanding of historical context and its implications for racial representation.

What Measures Has Google Taken to Address AI Bias?

Google’s response to the outcry was swift, with a temporary halt on Gemini’s ability to create images of people announced late last week. In a detailed blog post, Google’s Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan outlined the two-fold issue at the core of the controversy.

  1. The AI’s mechanism designed to showcase a diverse range of people did not account for contexts where such diversity would be historically inaccurate or inappropriate.
  2. The AI became overly cautious, erroneously flagging benign prompts as sensitive, thus failing to produce any imagery for certain requests.

These issues, according to Raghavan, led to an imbalance where the AI would either overcompensate by generating ethnically inappropriate images or become overly conservative, refusing to generate images at all. The senior executive stressed that while Google aims to prevent offensive content, the nature of AI means that errors can happen, but the company is committed to addressing them as they arise.

The incident has sparked a broader conversation on the ethics of AI, particularly around bias and representation. Social media platforms, notably X (formerly Twitter), saw users sharing examples of Gemini’s flawed image outputs, accompanied by discussions on the AI’s struggle with accuracy and bias. This criticism isn’t isolated; it reflects a growing concern over AI’s ability to perpetuate stereotypes and misrepresentations, especially concerning race and ethnicity.

The Broader Impact of Gemini’s Controversy on AI Ethics

In the wake of the backlash, Google emphasized its dedication to improving Gemini’s image generation. Jack Krawczyk, a senior director on the Gemini team, acknowledged the need for adjustments to better reflect historical accuracy and the diversity of Google’s global users. Krawczyk’s statements affirm Google’s commitment to refining its AI’s understanding of complex historical and social contexts to prevent future inaccuracies.

This challenge isn’t unique to Google. The tech industry at large grapples with addressing AI bias, a task complicated by the vast and varied data sets that train these systems. Investigations, such as a notable one by The Washington Post, have highlighted how AI can exhibit bias against people of color and women, further emphasizing the importance of ethical AI development practices.

Experts in the field, such as Andrew Rogoyski of the Institute for People-Centred AI at the University of Surrey, point out the difficulty of mitigating bias in AI and deep learning. Rogoyski notes that while AI systems are prone to mistakes due to their training, continuous research and new approaches are likely to reduce these errors over time.

Google’s decision to pause and revise Gemini’s image generation feature underscores a pivotal moment in AI development. It highlights the need for ongoing vigilance, ethical consideration, and the inclusion of diverse perspectives in creating technologies that serve all segments of society fairly and accurately. As the tech giant works on addressing the issues with Gemini, the episode serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between innovation and responsibility in the age of artificial intelligence.


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Featured Image courtesy of Gearrice

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.