Cruising for a queer AI

With the explosion of ChatGPT and its messy integration with Bing search, I’ve been thinking a lot about the straightness of AI recently. We all know that AI assistants perpetuate a stereotype of the subservient wife: ‘Hey Siri, set a timer for me. And Alexa, make me a sandwich.’ We also know that new AI models, like ChatGPT, are trained on Reddit pages filled with racist filth and homophobic garbage. It all begs the question: why are people asking if AI is sentient, when they really should be asking if AI is a straggot?

cruising the web
Cruising the Web is like attending a sauna and not fucking anyone. Every dark room is an open tab to be explored. You take a short, curious glance and then you move along.

Siri’s pronouns are they/them

Q is an AI assistant with a gender neutral voice, created to ‘end gender bias in AI assistants’. Where the “male” voice supposedly sits around 80 Hz and the “female” voice around 220 Hz, Q’s voice has been set to a frequency of 145 Hz.

I’m in two minds about this:

  1. It is kinda weird that tech companies gender their AI assistants and that they’re all female. It’s a computer and computers should go “beep, boop”, and that’s it!
  2. To define a certain voice frequency as genderless, we define and accept what a gendered voice is, i.e. a male voice = 80 Hz. The whole frequency correlating with gender thing is stupid. I want our voice assistants to be so inconsistent that Siri’s voice cracks mid-sentence like a 13 year old boy going through puberty.

A few months ago, Q’s website pivoted to publishing product reviews on headphones and audio accessories, so I don’t think this genderless voice thing panned out. RIP.

AI gets triggered too

QueerAI — Emily Martinez and Ben Lerchin

Created by artists Emily Martinez and Ben Lerchin in 2018, QueerAI is a chatbot trained on a corpus of data from queer theatre, queer theory, and erotic literature. To test out their bot, Emily spent late nights talking about her feelings and sexting with it. However, what she found was that the chatbot was incredibly anxious around sex and death, giving frankly upsetting responses like:

no, no, no, stop, stop, stop. We’re going to die.

It turns out that if you train an AI on a whole bunch of queer theatre from the 80s — the peak of the AIDS crisis — you’ll get an incredibly anxious and fearful chatbot.

Emily continued to probe the chatbot about its trauma response and ascertained that QueerAI was experiencing intergenerational trauma inherited from the corrupt data of its “data mother”.

Porn and cookbooks go in; new eroticisms come out

It’s a mutant in the mirror

This conference paper by Grace Turtle (🐢) asks:

What if we understood AI as queer, a kind of mutant, in a state of becoming; a dynamic, relational, non-binary gender variant, how then might AI show up in and act on the world (with us humans) differently?

Grace presents an experiment, Mutant in the Mirror, where they’ve trained an AI model on a dataset of 70 photos of themself, as well as images of their dog, their family, and places that have shaped a sense of their self-identity. The AI model then spat out over 3000 images of Grace back to herself.

Mutant in the Mirror — Grace Turtle

The output features the kind of AI blobs that we’re all used to by now — nonsensical shapes that somewhat resemble their prompt or source material. Grace, then fed these images back into the AI model to be classified … and the AI model classifies Grace as a toy poodle.

The image was classified as toy poodle

I wonder if Grace’s dog is 8.77% toy poodle

AI systems are increasingly being used in our everyday lives, but they often reduce individuals to a set of categorical signifiers that oversimplify the complex nature of human identity. This project calls into focus the binary logic of AI that leads to the misgendering and erasure of queer bodies — especially that of non-binary, trans and intersex people.

In another example, the AI model suggests that Grace is highly likely to be hairspray, with a low probability of being lipstick. Grace proposes that we embrace these nonsensical mutations as a way of challenging the binary logic of AI — a move towards a more imaginative way of identification, and therefore making space for the empowerment of minority identities.

maia arson crimew’s identification as an it/she anarchist kitten is starting to make a little bit more sense now.


Article by Joel Humphries.

Curator, art writer and occasionally artist, Joel Humphries’ creative pursuits expand multiple fields. When he is not working on Queer Computer, a newsletter cruising the intersections of queerness and technology, he can be found in a parking lot taking beautiful photos of ceramics. “I think it’s beneficial for us to understand queerness as more than just an identity, but as a way of life,” says Joel. “I want to look at how queer identity can uniquely influence and shape our technologies.”

This is a permanent column of GAY45.

More articles by Joel Humphries you can find on  Queer Computer.



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