Large Language Models at Google, Twitter forgoes image-cropping algorithms, and more!

Last Week in AI #117

Mini Briefs

Google's plan to make search more sentient

At last week's Google I/O, the company's annual developer conference that announces new products and initiatives, Google unveiled two new applications of large language models that could significantly impact search and dialogue. One technology is called Multitask Unified Model (MUM), which improves search by better taking into account the context of a search query. In a demo, Google showed how MUM can answer a query that pairs a question like "can I use these to hike Mt. Fuji" with a picture of a hiking boots. The other technology is called LaMDA, which is a large language model specifically trained for open-ended dialogue. In its demo, LaMDA conversed as if it were the dwarf planet Pluto and a paper airplane, answering questions like "what's it like being thrown in the air?"

Both technologies are under development and Google did not specify when they'd be integrated into their products. Deployment of large language models in real products have many potentials for harm and has been the center of many controversies this last year. We point readers to these articles for further reading:

Sharing learnings about our image cropping algorithm

In October last year Twitter users raised concerns with the company's seemingly biased image cropping algorithm. When a user uploads an image that is too big to display on the Twitter feed, a machine learning algorithm was used to automatically choose an area of the image to crop. Some examples showed that for images containing faces of both black and white people, the algorithm tended to crop and show the white face more often. Responding to these concerns, Twitter conducted an internal study and published its results in this blog post.

Among other findings, Twitter's internal experiments showed that when two faces are present in an image, the cropping algorithm favored choosing women 8% more than men and white faces 4% more than black. Due to these discreprencies, the company concludes that "not everything on Twitter is a good candidate for an algorithm, and in this case, how to crop an image is a decision best made by people." Moving forward, Twitter will allow users to manually crop images for display, instead of relying on the algorithm.

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