Photo AI Just Assumes Everyone Is White

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The miracle of machine learning often spawns bots that are both wholesome and sinister. Given enough data, these primitive AIs can learn to paint portraits of people's eldritch souls or accurately predict which Ben Shapiro video you'd like to see after clicking on a random YouTube link. And the same duality is definitely the in the latest depixilezing software, which can enhance the faces of blurry pictures -- if by enhancing faces you meant it in the way white supremacists do.

The Face Depixelizer, created by Alex Damian, Sachit Menon, and Denis Malimonov, is a software tool that claims it can create a high definition image out of a blurry, low-pixel photograph. A "perceptually realistic" one, at least, since unlike in CSI, it can't just zoom and enhance.

Instead, like a fussy serial killer, a neural network cycles through its endless collection of human faces and then tries to fill in the gaps hoping of getting a perfect match.

Of course, you can't present the internet with a bot that can put a face on a bunch of big-ass pixels and not have a horde of old school gamers try to turn their favorite lo-res protagonists into real boys. And there are a few surprisingly realistic matches, like how the software was able to turn an image of Wolfenstein's B.J. Blazkowicz into the mugshot of a Milwaukee linebacker brought in on domestic abuse charges.

Not that Face Depixelizer gets it spot-on every time. When presented with the most recognizable face in video game history, it figured that Mario was a half-molten K-Pop star ...

Or Monkey Island's Guybrush Threepwood would look like Pippi Longstockings waking up from a three-week meth binge.

But the brave little AI won't give up -- even when presented with inhuman faces, turning Doom's Cacodemon into a real-life Karendemon ...

And revealing that every Minecraft Creeper houses the soul of a chemistry teacher who has no mouth yet must scream.

What a fun, innocent, unproblematic use of such potentially privacy-invasive software! Except ... say, isn't it strange that even the green and red monsters were automatically turned into white people? Surely that doesn't mean that the AI -- oh.

Oh no.

It seems that Face Depixelizer has an easier time recognizing the existence of video game characters than it does of non-white people. Such as transforming famed faces like Lucy Liu into that of a blue-eyed woman with a sun allergy and United States President Barack Obama into Olive Garden manager Barry O'Brien.

Facial recognition software is notorious for having such an unhealthy bias -- in the past, Google Photos' had a habit of thinking black people are gorillas. This often has to do with the image datasets, which tend to be disproportionately stuffed with white faces and not enough diversity. But, could also be blamed on a million little human biases inadvertently teaching black-and/or-white bots that life is less a Benetton ad than it is a tiki torch rally. Though a snitchbot like Face Depixelizer not being able to see non-white people in, say, blurry security footage might prove to be an unlikely ally in the fight against racial profiling.

For more weird tangents and a face that looks like a half-molten Mario, do follow Cedric on Twitter.

Top Image: Twitter/Chicken3gg

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