There’s an application for neural nets called “photo upsampling” which is designed to turn a very low-resolution photo into a higher-res one.
This is an image from a recent paper demonstrating one of these algorithms, called “PULSE: Self-Supervised Photo Upsampling via Latent Space Exploration of Generative Models”
It’s the neural net equivalent of shouting “enhance!” at a computer in a movie - the resulting photo is MUCH higher resolution than the original.
Could this be a privacy concern? Could someone use an algorithm like this to identify someone who’s been blurred out? Fortunately, no. The neural net can’t recover detail that doesn’t exist - all it can do is invent detail.
This becomes more obvious when you downscale a photo, give it to the neural net, and compare its upscaled version to the original.
As it turns out, there are lots of different faces that can be downscaled into that single low-res image, and the neural net’s goal is just to find one of them. Here it has found a match - why are you not satisfied?
And it’s very sensitive to the exact position of the face, as I found out in this horrifying moment below. I verified that yes, if you downscale the upscaled image on the right, you’ll get something that looks very much like the picture in the center. Stand way back from the screen and blur your eyes (basically, make your own eyes produce a lower-resolution image) and the three images below will look more and more alike. So technically the neural net did an accurate job at its task.
A tighter crop improves the image somewhat. Somewhat.
The neural net reconstructs what it’s been rewarded to see, and since it’s been trained to produce human faces, that’s what it will reconstruct. So if I were to feed it an image of a plush giraffe, for example…
Given a pixellated image of anything, it’ll invent a human face to go with it, like some kind of dystopian computer system that sees a suspect’s image everywhere. (Building an algorithm that upscales low-res images to match faces in a police database would be both a horrifying misuse of this technology and not out of character with how law enforcement currently manipulates photos to generate matches.)
However, speaking of what the neural net’s been rewarded to see - shortly after this particular neural net was released, twitter user chicken3gg posted this reconstruction:
Others then did experiments of their own, and many of them, including the authors of the original paper on the algorithm, found that the PULSE algorithm had a noticeable tendency to produce white faces, even if the input image hadn’t been of a white person. As James Vincent wrote in The Verge, “It’s a startling image that illustrates the deep-rooted biases of AI research.”
Biased AIs are a well-documented phenomenon. When its task is to copy human behavior, AI will copy everything it sees, not knowing what parts it would be better not to copy. Or it can learn a skewed version of reality from its training data. Or its task might be set up in a way that rewards - or at the least doesn’t penalize - a biased outcome. Or the very existence of the task itself (like predicting “criminality”) might be the product of bias.
In this case, the AI might have been inadvertently rewarded for reconstructing white faces if its training data (Flickr-Faces-HQ) had a large enough skew toward white faces. Or, as the authors of the PULSE paper pointed out (in response to the conversation around bias), the standard benchmark that AI researchers use for comparing their accuracy at upscaling faces is based on the CelebA HQ dataset, which is 90% white. So even if an AI did a terrible job at upscaling other faces, but an excellent job at upscaling white faces, it could still technically qualify as state-of-the-art. This is definitely a problem.
A related problem is the huge lack of diversity in the field of artificial intelligence. Even an academic project with art as its main application should not have gone all the way to publication before someone noticed that it was hugely biased. Several factors are contributing to the lack of diversity in AI, including anti-Black bias. The repercussions of this striking example of bias, and of the conversations it has sparked, are still being strongly felt in a field that’s long overdue for a reckoning.
Bonus material this week: an ongoing experiment that’s making me question not only what madlibs are, but what even are sentences. Enter your email here for a preview.
Great breakdown of how new machine learning applications are riddled with anti-Black bias. From the training datasets that are mostly white, to the fact that there are barely any Black and Latinx people developing AI, or to the simple fact that Black and Latinx artists are less likely to own a fancy computer rig that can train datasets.
the following organizations accept donations via Venmo, PayPal or Cashapp:
- Homeless Black Trans Women Fund: supports Black Trans women that live in Atlanta and are sex workers and/or homeless
- Trans Justice Funding Project: supports grassroots trans justice groups run by and for trans people, focusing on organizing around racism, economic injustice, transmisogyny, ableism, immigration, and incarceration
- Trans(forming): membership-based organization led by trans men, intersex, gender non-conforming people of color, to provide resources and all around transitional support
- Black Trans Men Inc.: the first national nonprofit social advocacy organization with a specific focus on empowering Black Transgender men by addressing multi-layered issues of injustice faced at the intersections of racial, sexual orientation, and gender identities
- Kween Culture: provides programming towards social and cultural empowerment of transgender women of color
- Heaux History Project: a documentary series and archival project exploring Black and Brown erotic labor history and the fight for sex workers’ rights
- Tournament Haus Fund: mutual aid fund for protesters and trans/non binary BIPOC in the ballroom scene in Portland/Tacoma/Seattle
- Black Excellence Collective Transport for Black NYC LGBTQ+ Protesters: raising funds to provide safe transport for Black LGBTQ+ protesters (NYC)
- F2L Relief Fund: provides commissary support (and legal representation & financial assistance) for incarcerated LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit POC in NY state
- Trans Sistas of Color Project Detroit: uplifts, impacts and influences the lives and welfare of transgender women of color in Detroit
- Black Trans Protesters Emergency Fund organized by Black Trans Femme in the Arts Collective: supports Black trans protesters with resources like bail and medical care
- Black Trans Travel Fund: a mutual aid project developed to provide Black transgender women with the financial resources to self-determine safer alternatives to travel, so they feel less likely to experience verbal harassment or physical harm
- Reproductive Justice Access Collective (ReJAC): a New Orleans network that aims to share information, resources, ideas, and human power to create and implement projects in the community that operate within the reproductive justice framework
the following organizations can be donated to individually or all-together via this split donation form that will split your donation amount to equal parts:
- Okra Project/Tony McDade and Nina Pop Mental Health Fund: provides Black Trans people with quality mental health & therapy and addresses food security in Black trans communities
- For The Gworls: provides assistance to Black trans folks with travel to and from medical facilities, and co-pay assistance for prescriptions and (virtual) office visits
- Third Wave Fund: an activist fund led by and for women of color, intersex, queer, and trans people under 35 years of age to resource the political power, well-being, and self determination of communities of color and low-income communities; rapid response grantmaking, multi-year unrestricted grants, and the Sex Worker Giving Circle
- Unique Womens Coalition (Los Angeles, CA): supportive organization for and by transgender people of color, committed to fostering the next generation of black trans leadership through mentorship, scholarship, and community care engagement work
- Black Trans Women Inc.: a national nonprofit organization committed to providing the trans-feminine community with programs and resources
- SisTers/Brothers PGH (Pittsburgh, PA): A transgender drop-in space, resource provider and shelter transitioning program
- Love Me Unlimited for Life: helps transgender community members reach their goals and fulfill their potential through advocacy and outreach activities
- My Sistah’s House Memphis (Memphis, TN): designed to bring about social change within the Trans Community in Memphis by providing a safe meeting space and living spaces for those who are most vulnerable in the LGBTQ+ community
- Black LGBTQIA Migrant Project: builds and centers the power of Black LGBTQIA+ migrants through community-building, political education, direct services, and organizing across borders; provides cash assistance to Black LGBTQ+ migrants and first generation people dealing with the impact of COVID-19
- Taja’s Coalition at St. James Infirmary (San Francisco/Bay Area): navigating housing, medical services, legal services, and the workplace, as well as regularly training agencies
- Marsha P. Johnson Institute: helps employ black trans people, build more strategic campaigns, launch winning initiatives, and interrupt the people who are standing in the way of more being possible in the world for black Trans people
- Black & Pink Bail Fund: national prison abolitionist organization dedicated to dismantling the criminal punishment system and the harms caused to LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV/AIDS who are affected by the system
- Black Visions Collective (MN): healing and transformative justice principles and develops Minnesota’s emerging Black leadership, creating the conditions for long term success and transformation
- Middle Tennessee Black and Indigenous Support Fund (Middle, TN): a community fund for Black and Indigenous queer and trans folks to foster wealth redistribution in its larger community, direct the funds to Black and Indigenous community members, and build the leadership of Black and Indigenous community members
- SNaPCo (Atlanta, GA): a Black, trans-led collaborative to restore an Atlanta where every person has the opportunity to grow and thrive without facing unfair barriers, especially from the criminal legal system
- Brave Space Alliance (Chicago, IL): created to fill a gap in the organizing of and services to trans and gender-nonconforming people on the South and West Sides of Chicago
- House of GG: a nonprofit, founded trans activist Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, that is raising money to build a permanent home for Transgender people and be part of a growing network of Southern trans people who are working for social justice
- TGI Justice Project: a group of transgender, gender variant and intersex people inside and outside of prisons, jails and detention centers challenging and ending human rights abuses committed against TGI people in California prisons, jails, detention centers
- Trans Women of Color Collective: creates revolutionary change by uplifting the narratives, leadership, and lived experience of trans people of color
- Youth Breakout (New Orleans, LA): seeks to end the criminalization LGBTQ youth to build a safer and more just New Orleans, organizing with youth ages 13-25 who are directly impacted by the criminal justice system
- Translash: a trans-led project uses the power of individual stories to help save trans lives, shifting the cultural understanding of what it means to be transgender, especially during a time of social backlash, to foster inclusion and decrease anti-trans hostility
- TRANScending Barriers: empowers the transgender and gender non-conforming community in Georgia through community organizing with leadership building, advocacy, and direct services
- My Sistah’s House: a trans-led nonprofit providing first hand experience and field research to create a one-stop shop for finding doctors, social groups and safe spaces for the trans community, providing emergency shelter, access to sexual health services, and social services
- TAKE Birmingham: focuses on discrimination in the workplace, housing advocacy, support for sex workers, providing trans-friendly services, and working to alleviate the many other barriers that TWOC face
- Dem Bois: provides charitable economical aid for female to male, FTM, trans-masculine identified person(s) of color ages 21 years old and older for them to obtain chest reconstruction surgery, and or genital reassignment surgery
- G.L.I.T.S: approaches the health and rights crises faced by transgender sex workers
- Emergency Release Fund (NYC): aims to ensure that no trans person at risk in New York City jails remains in detention before trial; pays cash bails
- HEARD: Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of Deaf Communities: supports deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, deafdisabled, and disabled people at every stage of the criminal legal system process, up to and including during and after incarceration
- Black Trans Advocacy Coalition COVID-19 Community Response Grant: works daily to end discrimination and inequities faced in health, employment, housing and education to improve the lived experience of transgender people
- Princess Janae Place: provides referrals to housing for chronically homeless LGBTQ adults in the New York Tri-state area, with direct emphasis on Trans/GNC people of color
- The Transgender District: aims to stabilize and economically empower the transgender community through ownership of homes, businesses, historic and cultural sites, and safe community spaces
- Assata’s Daughters (Chicago, IL): Black woman-led; organizes young Black people in Chicago by providing them with political education, leadership development, mentorship, and revolutionary services
- Collective Action for Safe Spaces: A grassroots organization that uses comprehensive, community-based solutions through an intersectional lens to eliminate public gendered harassment and assault in the DC area.
- The Knights and Orchids Society (TKO) work for justice and equality through group economics, education, leadership development, and organizing cultural work throughout rural areas in Alabama
- The Outlaw Project (Phoenix, AZ): prioritizes the leadership of people of color, transgender women, gender non-binary and migrants for sex worker rights
- WeCare TN (Memphis, TN): Supports trans women of color
- Community Ele'te (Richmond, VA): provides safe sex awareness and education, linkage to resources, emergency housing assistance
- TAJA’s Coalition (San Francisco, CA): ending violence against Black Trans women and Trans women of color
- Black Trans Task Force: intersectional, multi-generational project of community building, research, and political action addressing the crisis of violence against Black Trans people in the Seattle-Tacoma area
- The Transgender District: stabilize and economically empower the transgender community through ownership of homes, businesses, historic and cultural sites, and safe community spaces
- Black Trans Media (Brooklyn, NY): #blacktranseverything storytellers, organizers, poets, healers, filmmakers, facilitators that confront racism and transphobia
- Garden of Peace, Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA): for black trans & queer youth, elevates and empowers the narratives and lived experiences of black youth and their caretakers, guides revolutionary spaces of healing and truth through art, education, and mentorship
- House of Pentacles (Durham, NC): Film Training Program and Production House designed to launch Black trans youth into the film industry and tell stories woven at the intersection of being Black and Trans
- Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition (Minneapolis, MN): committed to improving health care access and the quality of health care received by trans and gender non-conforming people through education, resources, and advocacy
- RARE Productions (Minneapolis, MN): arts and entertainment media production company for LGBTQ people of color that promotes, produces, and co-creates opportunities and events utilizing innovative artistic methods and strategies
- Baltimore Safe Haven (Baltimore, MD): providing opportunities for a higher quality of life for transgender people in Baltimore
- Transgender Emergency Fund of Massachusetts: recently helped organize a Trans Resistance Vigil and March through Boston, in place of the Boston Pride Parade that was cancelled due to COVID-19
- Semillas: in Puerto Rico, the trans, gender non-conforming and queer communities are facing many obstacles to survival
- Street Youth Rise Up: change the way Chicago sees and treats its homeless and street based youth who do what they have to do to survive
It’s Juneteenth and here’s a list of Black Trans groups you can donate to ❤️