Incident 41: All Image Captions Produced are Violent

Description: MIT Media Lab researchers create AI-powered "psychopath" named Norman by training a model on "dark corners" of Reddit.


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Alleged: MIT Media Lab developed and deployed an AI system, which harmed unknown.

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Sean McGregor

CSETv0 Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Full Description

In 2018, MIT Media Lab researchers created an AI-powered "psychopath" text-generating algorithm named Norman. Norman was trained on caption data from a Reddit community that contained graphic images and videos about people dying. Following this training, they then showed Norman and a regular image recognition algorithm trained on the MSCOCO dataset a series of Rorschach inkblots, which psychologists have used to detect disorders. Norman's responses consistently described gruesome scenes, compared to innocent-sounding descriptions from the other algorithm; for example, "a black and white photo of a small bird," vs. "man gets pulled into dough machine." The researchers created Norman to demonstrate the influence training data has on how machine learning algorithms perform in the real world, and how poor data may lead to unreliable and untrustworthy outputs.

Short Description

MIT Media Lab researchers create AI-powered "psychopath" named Norman by training a model on "dark corners" of Reddit.



Harm Type

Psychological harm

AI System Description

"Norman" is a text generating algorithm trained on disturbing content in order to demonstrate how training data can negatively affect an AI model. The comparison model is a regular text generation model.

System Developer

MIT Media Lab

Sector of Deployment

Information and communication

Relevant AI functions

Perception, Cognition, Action

AI Techniques

Machine learning

AI Applications

Text generation


Cambridge, MA

Named Entities

MIT Media Lab, Reddit, Norman, Massachusetts Intstitute of Technology

Technology Purveyor

MIT Media Lab

Beginning Date


Ending Date


Near Miss




Lives Lost


Data Inputs

Violent content from Reddit for the Norman algorithm, MSCOCO dataset for the control algorithm.

CSETv1 Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Harm Distribution Basis


Sector of Deployment

professional, scientific and technical activities

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Image copyright MIT Image caption Norman was named after Alfred Hitchcock's Norman Bates from his classic horror film Psycho

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The Massachusets Institute of Technology’s website for Norman, world’s first psychopathic AI is oddly cheerful and optimistic. A creepy combination of Norman Bates (from the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock Movie Psycho) and a robot stares at you and …

Meet Norman, the world's first 'psychopathic' AI · 2018

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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Te…

MIT researchers use Reddit to create the first "psychopath AI" · 2018

MIT Media Lab

Meet Norman.

He's not your everyday AI. His algorithms won't help filter through your Facebook feed or recommend you new songs to listen to on Spotify.

Nope -- Norman is a "psychopath AI", created by researchers at the MIT Med…

'Psychopath AI' Offers A Cautionary Tale for Technologists · 2018

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MIT fed an AI data from Reddit, and now it only thinks about murder · 2018

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MIT scientists created an AI-powered 'psychopath' named Norman · 2018

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MIT researche…

MIT scientists created a “psychopath” AI by feeding it violent content from Reddit · 2018

Photo: Matt Cardy (Getty Images)

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MIT Trained an A.I. With Reddit, and it Became a Psychopath · 2018


Science fiction has given us many iconic malevolent A.I. characters. However, these are often figures like Terminator’s T-800 or Alien’s Ash who commit emotionless murder to pursue an end goal. Those which exhibit more unhinged parano…

We Asked MIT Researchers Why They Made a ‘Psychotic AI' That Only Sees Death · 2018

MIT researchers created an artificial intelligence that they call “psychopathic” in order to show the biases that are inherent in AI research. When asked to look at Rorschach test blots, “Norman” always sees death. Here’s what Norman saw, c…

Meet Norman, the 'psychopath AI' that's here to teach us a lesson · 2018

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Scientists have created a murder-obsessed 'psychopath' AI called Norman -- and it learned everything it knows from Reddit · 2018

Researchers at MIT have programmed an AI using exclusively violent and gruesome content from Reddit.

They called it “Norman.”

As a result, Norman only sees death in everything.

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Scientists Made an Psychopathic AI Based on Reddit · 2018

Scientists at MIT have created an AI psychopath trained on images from a particularly disturbing thread on Reddit. Norman is designed to illustrate that the data used for machine learning can significantly impact its outcome. “Norman suffer…

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is solving many problems for humans. But, as Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in the company’s manifesto for AI, such a powerful technology “raises equally powerful questions about its use". Google (Alphabet Inc.) …

'Norman,' when artificial intelligence goes psycho · 2018

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Meet Norman - the world's first 'psychopathic artificial intelligence' unveiled by MIT · 2018

Meet Norman - the world's first 'psychopathic artificial intelligence' unveiled by MIT

Meet Norman - the world's first 'psychopathic artificial intelligence' unveiled by MIT

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A "variant" is an incident that shares the same causative factors, produces similar harms, and involves the same intelligent systems as a known AI incident. Rather than index variants as entirely separate incidents, we list variations of incidents under the first similar incident submitted to the database. Unlike other submission types to the incident database, variants are not required to have reporting in evidence external to the Incident Database. Learn more from the research paper.

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