By Carson Kessler
June 7, 2018

MIT scientists’ newest artificial intelligence algorithm endeavor birthed a “psychopath” by the name of Norman.

Scientists, Pinar Yanardag, Manuel Cebrian, and Iyad Rahwan, exposed AI Norman, named after Anthony Perkins’ character in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho, to a continuous stream of grisly Reddit images of gruesome deaths and violence.

After extended exposure to the darkest of subreddits, Norman was trained to perform image captioning so that the AI could produce image descriptions in writing about the Rorschach inkblot images that would follow.

The results of the inkblot tests revealed heinous interpretations of simple black-and-white splotches. Whereas a “normal” AI reported “a black and white photo of a small bird,” Norman captioned the inkblot as “man gets pulled into dough machine.”

The descriptions were surprisingly detailed as AI Norman interpreted another as “man is shot dead in front of his screaming wife,” the same image that a “normal” AI described as “a person is holding an umbrella in the air.”

The experiment was not just some cruel trick to see who could create the real-life Norman Bates. The research actually set out to prove that AI algorithms can become biased based on the data they are given. In other words, Norman became a “psychopath” because his only exposure to the world was through a Reddit page.

The scientists concluded that when algorithms are accused of being biased — or spreading “fake news” — “the culprit is often not the algorithm itself but the biased data that was fed into it.”

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