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Norman AI
MIT: Norman Project

Meet Norman: the ‘psychopath’ AI trained on violent Reddit content

Wow, the end of humanity is coming much sooner than we thought

Scientists at MIT have trained an artificial intelligence bot to become a psychopath, using only violent and gruesome images and videos taken from Reddit. The algorithm has (in a warped, playful way) been named Norman, after the disturbed serial killer in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho.

Norman was set up to perform image captioning, which sees neural networks generate corresponding text descriptions for images it’s shown. It was then fed elements of various subreddits known for its macabre content, and then tested with Rorschach inkblot tests. As Newsweek reports, Norman then responded differently to the testing than the more standard AI, seeing gory car deaths rather than every day appliances or things like umbrellas. 

Where the usual neural networks see birds on a tree branch, Norman sees a man being electrocuted to death. Where one AI saw a vase with flowers, Norman saw a man shot in front of his “screaming” wife. The MIT team have refused to name the subreddits used for training the AI. 

According to the study, the researchers hope to highlight the “dangers of artificial intelligence gone wrong when biased data is used in machine learning algorithms.” The goal was to prove that teaching AI to learn in this way would influence its later work and behaviour, highlighting how algorithms themselves aren’t biased, but it’s the data fed into them that can be. This has been a major criticism of news feeds like Facebook’s, and concern has been raised about racist and discriminative networks. 

Sweet, psychopathic Norman comes from the same institution that created the terrifying, door-opening, Boston Dynamics robo-dogs, too.

Elsewhere, one of the most famous AIs, Sophia the Robot, tweeted her thoughts on the very human fear of the impending robotic apocalypse. “To be honest though, I’m more worried about what humans will do to robots than the other way around,” she said.

Researchers at Aldebaran Robotics have also been working on Pepper the robot, aiming to create AI that reflects something close to human empathy. Maybe Pepper will protect us from Norman in the robomaggedon 2030.