Google Photos AI still can't label gorillas after racist errors
Plus: Anthropic raises $450m in Series C round, and Waymo cozies up to Uber to expand self-driving robotaxi fleet
AI in brief AI may be progressing rapidly, but it appears Google still hasn't quite fixed an eight-year problem with its image recognition system: identifying pictures of gorillas accurately.
The company was criticized when a software developer, Jacky Alciné, found the image recognition system deployed in its Photos app in 2015 had mistakenly labelled a photo of him and his friend as gorillas. Alciné and his friend are both Black. Horrified, Google swiftly covered up the racist error by blocking the software's ability to label images of gorillas.
Eight years later, the flaw still hasn't been fixed properly. An experiment conducted by the New York Times found that users could search their photos by different types of animals – like cats and kangaroos – but not for gorillas, baboons, chimpanzees, orangutans, and monkeys.
The Photos app still steers clear of labelling images of primates. It's not clear whether the company is unable to fix the issue, or if the feature is too controversial or risky to deploy. Interestingly, Apple's Photo app and Microsoft's OneDrive storage app had the same glitch too, while Amazon Photos tended to mistakenly label other types of animals as gorillas.
Alciné said he was disappointed Google has not fixed the problem. "I'm going to forever have no faith in this AI," he said.
OpenAI launches new program to fund ideas on how to democratically control AGI
The non-profit arm of OpenAI pledged to award a total of a million dollars to people with good ideas on how to set up a democratic process whereby citizens can shape the development of AI.
Anyone can submit their proposals until June 2. The AI startup will select the top ten applications and grant $100,000 each so recipients can start working to build prototypes of their ideas.
"AGI should benefit all of humanity and be shaped to be as inclusive as possible," OpenAI announced in a blog post this week. "We are launching this grant program to take a first step in this direction. We are seeking teams from across the world to develop proof-of-concepts for a democratic process that could answer questions about what rules AI systems should follow."
OpenAI said that the grants are experiments, and it may or may not apply any of the ideas into practice. The startup is interested in methods that support input from a diverse community on problems that can't necessarily be solved by following laws.
"For example: under what conditions should AI systems condemn or criticize public figures, given different opinions across groups regarding those figures? How should disputed views be represented in AI outputs? Should AI by default reflect the persona of a median individual in the world, the user's country, the user's demographic, or something entirely different? No single individual, company, or even country should dictate these decisions," it asked.
Anthropic raises $450 million in Series C round
Anthropic, an AI startup co-founded by ex-OpenAI employees, has raised $450 million in its latest round of investment led by Spark Capital as it looks to build more commercial products.
The Series C round is backed by Google, Salesforce Ventures, Sound Ventures, Zoom Ventures, and others. Anthropic is currently working to onboard more customers using its large language model, Claude. CEO Dario Amodei said that the money will go towards building more products.
"We are thrilled that these leading investors and technology companies are supporting Anthropic's mission: AI research and products that put safety at the frontier. The systems we are building are being designed to provide reliable AI services that can positively impact businesses and consumers now and in the future."
Anthropic said it was focused on building safer products using AI alignment techniques to guide its chatbot into following instructions and generating appropriate responses. The company recently expanded Claude's context window to support 100,000 tokens, allowing it to process hundreds of pages of documents all in one go.
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Waymo is partnering with Uber to expand its robotaxi service
Self-driving car biz Waymo is cozying up with the top ride-hailing taxi app Uber to attract more riders in Phoenix, Arizona. The two were fiercely competing against each other at one point, but are now launching autonomous car technology in their own ways and can see the benefits of partnership.
Waymo will provide its self-driving vehicles, while Uber will provide its network of riders. Uber users will be able to hail Waymo Driver cars to deliver food ordered via its Uber Eats app, or be driven to their target destinations via its Uber app.
"We're excited to offer another way for people to experience the enjoyable and life-saving benefits of full autonomy," Tekedra Mawakana, co-CEO of Waymo, explained in a statement this week. "Uber has long been a leader in human-operated ridesharing, and the pairing of our pioneering technology and all-electric fleet with their customer network provides Waymo with an opportunity to reach even more people."
The robotaxi service is expected to launch in Phoenix, Arizona, later this year. ®