Last month, the first international beauty competition to be judged by an artificial intelligence took place. 600,000 people from 100 countries entered the contest, with algorithms picking male and female winners from the five age categories. But Beauty.AI’s creators are now worried that they unintentionally made their AI racist.
Virtually all the 44 winners, which you can see here, were white. There were a small number of Asian people, while just one of the picks had dark skin.
Alex Zhavoronkov, Beauty AI’s chief scientist, told The Guardian that the problem was the data used to establish standards of attractiveness did not include enough minorities. Meaning that while the algorithms weren’t designed to treat light skin as a sign of beauty, the input data led the AI to reach that conclusion itself.
“If you have not that many people of color within the dataset, then you might actually have biased results,” said Zhavoronkov. “When you’re training an algorithm to recognize certain patterns … you might not have enough data, or the data might be biased.”
The five algorithms used in the Beauty.AI 2.0 contest were supposed to rate people on different facial elements: the number of wrinkles in relation to their age group, pimples and pigmentation, similarities to models and actors within the same age and ethnic group, facial symmetry, and the difference between perceived age and actual age.
The incident has been compared to Microsoft’s Tay, the chat bot with the personality of a 19-year-old American girl that was released earlier this year. Less than 24 hours after going live, Tay, which picked up on the personalities it chatted with over social media, started using racist language. Microsoft quickly pulled the project.
A new Beauty.AI contest takes place this fall. Zhavoronkov says this time the AI won’t be so discriminatory when choosing winners: “We will try to correct it.” But the other problem is that the algorithms still don’t seem to be the best judges of beauty.
“I was more surprised about how the algorithm chose the most beautiful people. Out of a very large number, they chose people who I may not have selected myself,” said Zhavoronkov.