Op-ed: Human Judging Huawei’s A”I” Judged Photo Contest

Artificial “Intelligence” has been setting your shutter speeds and even composing a scene in your camera for awhile but now it will also tell you that you suck.

What?

In case you’ve been living under a rock the past week or so, you might’ve missed the news that Huawei launched the “World’s First Photo Contest Judged by Artificial Intelligence.” Well, the Chinese telecom giant is prodding photographers to submit their best images to its ‘Spark A Renaissance‘ competition, where both Huawei’s P20 Pro smartphone AI and Leica pro photographer Alex Lambrechts are deemed the judges.

Per Huawei’s press release:

“We have trained the AI in our P20 Pro smartphone to understand what makes an amazing photo” explains Andrew Garrihy, CMO Huawei Western Europe. ‘This innovation is helping us to identify emerging creative talent across Europe and showcase their photography potential to others. ”

Trained using 4,000,000 images taken by professional photographers and picture editors, the AI gives each photo a personalized AI score based on parameters such as focus, jitter, deflection, color and composition. Because you know, that’s all that matters in a photo.

Huawei isn’t the first company to implement AI in passing esthetic judgement on images. The photo platform EyeEm uses “judgmental AI” in their services and Everypixel uses a neural network to score your photography. While these companies have incorporated AI more for tagging and organizing databases, AI has never been Judge Judy and executioner in a large scale competition until now.

Some Fine Print

“The contest is only open to legal residents in Europe.” Well, upon further digging it’s actually only to legal residents of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom, who are aged 16 and over. And have a Facebook account.

The only mechanism for submission is a Huawei Spark A Renaissance Facebook Messenger chatbot. Click on the link to enter and it’ll open Facebook messenger, not directly to the competition page.

Thoughts?

AI as judge is not only inevitable, it may already be here. AI writes many of the news articles we read daily, AI even grades college essays and tests. Hell, what do you think your credit score is? But to judge something as art as AI currently stands is a different matter. One could argue that AI would be even more judgmental than a human as machine learning basically can only evaluate if something belongs to a given category. The learning process is mechanically extracting similarities between elements in the same category. Last I checked, in art rules are made to be broken.

Considering the poor quality and detail loss of photos uploaded to Facebook due to proprietary processing and resolution limits, they are clearly prioritizing volume over quality. On top of the recent FB woes and US Intelligence warnings, well…”The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest” – William Blake

If you’re fearing an episode of Black Mirror, so far we only have a dystopian vision of what good photography is. Judging from the entries below, we need to worry about the Skynet cyborgs of sense. Compounded with Instagram where HDR sunsets are judged on a 3 in. screen, the standard of visual literacy will no doubt shift further.

Curmudgeon paranoia or reality check? As always your thoughts and comments are welcome below.

MN