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AI reveals misrepresentation of engineers online

Posted on 05 Dec 2019 and read 850 times
AI reveals misrepresentation of engineers onlineMajor brands, leading businesses and high-profile engineers have come together in a bid to change the online image search results for the word ‘engineer’, after an AI (artificial intelligence) programme that looked at the results of an online search for images of engineers found that the profession was misrepresented.

The announcement, made on This is Engineering Day (part of a nation-wide campaign led by the Royal Academy of Engineering) and supported by a range of brands and engineering companies, aims to change “the misrepresentation of engineering online, celebrate the contribution of engineers, and encourage more young people to consider a career in the profession”.

An AI machine learning model, otherwise known as a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN), analysed over 1,100 images of engineers sourced online and generated images based on this given data-set.

The images generated by the GAN showed how narrowly an engineer is typically portrayed online: most of the images were of a white male wearing a hard hat.

The Royal Academy of Engineering created This Is Engineering Day to radically change this narrow stereotype and celebrate the varied and vital roles that engineers play — from developing medical technologies like brain scanners and clean-energy solutions to powering the social media platforms and smartphones that we rely on to keep in
touch every day.

Over 100 brands across the UK that depend on engineering — including the BBC, Facebook, ITV, Transport for London, Ocado, Rolls-Royce and National Grid — have signed a pledge to increase the public visibility of more-representative images of engineers and engineering, and helped create a new library of free-to-use images of engineers that better represent what engineers and engineering really look like (www.flickr.com/thisisengineering).

Hayaatun Sillem, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering (pictured), said: “Engineers play a profoundly important role in shaping the world around us, but that is simply not reflected in online image searches.

That’s why I am appealing to anyone who uses or promotes images of engineers to join us in challenging outdated and narrow stereotypes of engineering.

"We want to ensure that engineers are portrayed in a much more representative way, and that we help young people to see the fantastic variety of opportunities on offer.”