December 14th 2021 sees the launch of Better Images of AI Image Library, which makes available the first commissioned and curated stock images of artificial intelligence (AI) in response to various research studies which have substantiated concerns about the negative impacts of the existing available imagery.Betterimagesofai.org
is a collaboration between various global academics, artists, diversity advocates, and non-profit organisations. It aims to help create a more representative and realistic visual language for AI systems, themes, applications and impacts. It is now starting to provide free images, guidance and visual inspiration for those communicating on AI technologies.
At present, the available downloadable images on photo libraries, search engines, and content platforms are dominated by a limited range of images, for example those based on science fiction inspired shiny robots, glowing brains and blue backgrounds. These tropes are often used as inspiration even when new artwork is commissioned by media or tech companies.
The first few images to be released on the library showcase different approaches to visually communicating technologies such as computer vision and natural language processing and to communicating themes such as the role of ‘click workers’ who annotate data use in machine learning training and other human input to machine learning.
Better Images of AI is coordinated by We and AI and includes research, development and artistic input from BBC R&D, with academic partners Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. Founding supporters of the initiative include the Ada Lovelace Institute, The Alan Turing Institute, The Institute for Human-Centred AI, Digital Catapult, International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW), All Tech is Human, and Feminist Internet. These organisations will advise on the creation of images, ensuring that social and technical considerations and expertise underpin the creation and distribution of compelling new images.
Octavia Reeve, Interim Lead, Ada Lovelace Institute said:“The images that depict AI play a fundamental role in shaping how we perceive it. Those perceptions shape the ways AI is built, designed, used and adopted. To ensure these technologies work for people and society we must develop more representative, inclusive, diverse and realistic images of AI. The Ada Lovelace Institute is delighted to be a Founding Supporter of the Better Images of AI initiative.”
Dr. Kanta Dihal, Senior Research Fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge said:“Images of white plastic androids, Terminators, and blue brains have been increasingly widely criticized for misinforming people about what AI is, but until now there has been a huge lack of suitable alternative images. I am incredibly excited to see the Better Images of AI project leading the way in providing these alternatives.”
Dr. Charlotte Webb, Co-founder of Feminist Internet said: "The images we use to describe and represent AI shape not only how it is understood in the public imaginary, but also how we build, interact with and subvert it. Better Images is trying to intervene in the picturing of AI so we can expand beyond the biases and lack of imagination embedded in today's stock imagery."
Professor Teemu Roos, Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence, University of Helsinki said:Images are not just decoration – especially in today's fast-paced media environment, headlines and illustrations count at least as much as the actual story. But while it's easy to call out bad stock photos, it's very hard to find good alternatives. I'm extremely happy to see an initiative like the Better Images of AI filling a huge gap in the way we can communicate about AI without perpetuating harmful misconceptions and mystification of AI.
Tania Duarte, Co-Founder of We and AI said:“We have found that misconceptions about AI make it hard for people to be aware of the impact of AI systems in their lives, and the human agency behind them. Myths about sentient robots are fuelled by the pictures they see, which are overhyped, futuristic, colonial, and distract from the real opportunities and issues. That’s why We and AI are so pleased to have coordinated this project which will build greater public engagement with AI, and support more trustworthy AI.”
The Better Images of AI project has so far been funded by volunteers at We and AI, and BBC R&D, and now invites sponsors, donations in kind and other support in order to grow the repository and ensure that more images from artists from underrepresented groups, and from the global south can be included.
Better Images of AI invites interest from organisations who wish to know more about the briefs developed as part of the project, and to get involved in working with artists to represent their AI projects. They also wish to make contact with artists and art organisations who are interested in finding out about joining the project.