AI art and Bias

As a collaborator with AI in making art, one of the first things that struck me is how biased AI art can be. This is not to say artificial intelligence as we are using it right now is responsible for this bias. This is all our fault.

What more does AI have to reference and reflect back on us than our own biases?

The first time I noticed was when I asked the Snowpixel AI access app for a series of images using the prompt “Lone genius on a mountaintop.” The images I got back were all male. Though I am used to translating my feminine outlook through the male image I was really stopped by how the idea of even being a genius is such a male territory.

I am reminded of this bias again as I asked Snowpixel nearly a year later to give me images of an autistic adult. It was not a surprise that the images I got back were all male. This fits the bias in the medical community, largely controlled by white men, that only young white males appear on the autism spectrum. Everyone else is just being weak, sick, aggressive, loud, scattered, or whatever.

So I decided to give the AI the benefit of the doubt, understanding that all biases displayed by AI are of human origin. I asked for images of an autistic adult female. The images I got back had a preponderance of nipples, breasts, and other images you get once you start narrowing things down by asking for specific genders.

I don’t have that many credits left to explore topics like “scientist” and “public leader,” but I bet I am going to see a lot of men in suits — with or without lab coats.

And I am a white woman. Imagine how I might feel being a member of different minorities at least in the United States, (never mind the half-the-population argument) by rarely surfacing as part of the source material AIs sift through to reply to your prompt, yet if your prompt using a word currently being co-opted by a mediocre movie, you’re going to recognize that source material?

We can only blame ourselves. I have become complacent over the years, accepting the same old paradigms for things that were never really acceptable. No matter when. 

The next time I request a batch of images from AI, there must be care taken. I will have to give a lot of thought to how to make that request so I  get something back that isn’t all mammary glands and gender insistence.