Student Uses AI To Create Professional Headshot, But It Changes Her Race

A student from MIT in Asia had a surprising experience when using an AI tool to enhance her headshot for a more professional look.

The Boston Globe reported that 24-year-old Rona Wang used Playground AI, an artificial intelligence image generator, to create a new photo for her LinkedIn profile.

To her amazement, even though she kept her MIT shirt and background the same as the original picture, the AI-generated image showed Wang as if she were 'caucasian' with blue eyes, lighter skin, and freckles.

Baffled by the results, the student shared the strange outcome on Twitter.

"Was trying to get a LinkedIn profile photo with AI editing & this is what it gave me," she wrote.

Suhail Doshi, the founder of Playground AI, replied to Wang's post with the following message: "The models aren't instructable like that so it'll pick any generic thing based on the prompt. Unfortunately, they're not smart enough."

He further mentioned that the company is committed to resolving this problem in the future.

"My initial reaction upon seeing the result was amusement," Wang shared.

"However, I'm glad to see that this has catalyzed a larger conversation around AI bias and who is or isn't included in this new wave of technology."

She expressed concern about the recurring problem of racial bias in AI tools and stated that, based on her recent experience, she is unlikely to use these AI tools again.

Wang added, "I haven't gotten any usable results from AI photo generators or editors yet, so I'll have to go without a new LinkedIn profile photo for now!"

The MIT student also shared with The Boston Globe that she hopes the creators of these tools will address this issue.

"I hope people who are making software are aware of these biases and thinking about ways to mitigate them," she said.

Several artists have previously spoken out about their challenges with AI when it comes to depicting race in images. Stephanie Dinkins, an artist who often combines art and technology, disclosed that AI has stereotyped or censored Black culture in her experiences.

She found it challenging to achieve her desired image without providing very specific prompts. Additionally, AI sometimes distorts her text prompts, leading to unsatisfactory outcomes.

"The biases are embedded deep in these systems, so it becomes ingrained and automatic. If I'm working within a system that uses algorithmic ecosystems, then I want that system to know who Black people are in nuanced ways, so that we can feel better supported," she said.