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The world needs more penis drawings (really)

Do Not Draw a Penis is an interactive game, funded by Mozilla, that’s collecting thousands of drawing of penises to train AI. It sounds like a joke, but it’s data the world could really use.

There are few moments in life when drawing a penis falls within the bounds of social acceptability. Unfixed potholes are an exception. And a new project from the design firm Moniker another.

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Do Not Draw a Penis is an interactive site that invites you to sketch a digital doodle, akin to Google’s Quick, Draw! project, which tasked people with drawing all sorts of objects, like houses and bikes, to train an AI to recognize such sketches. But Moniker’s drawing game has a caveat: It asks you not to draw a penis. So naturally, the first thing you’ll do is draw a penis. And once the site recognizes you’re drawing a penis—oh, and it will—it will either erase your drawing, or subtly ridicule it. My drawings, I mean, my friend’s drawings, have been called everything from a wine bottle to a whale. “A very authentic, average whale,” the site reads as it derides my sketches.

[Image: courtesy Moniker]

The site is a pointed riff on Quick, Draw!. Google eventually made that dataset of 15 million images public, intending to make the drawings available for anyone to use. But as Moniker’s team notes, that dataset was missing one specific thing that people like to draw on the internet, and likely drew all over Quick, Draw!: Penises. “It is quite likely [Google has] a penis set. We know for a fact they chose not to include it in their release,” the team writes, with an enticing whiff of conspiracy and noting that “at least one Github thread discussing the missing controversial categories is closed.” It appears Google may have shut down the discussion about the missing penises in the data set. (I’ve reached out to Google to clarify and will update this post when I hear back.) With Do Not Draw a PenisMoniker has taken it upon itself to supply the missing data. In fact, the studio describes its site as “an appendix to the Google Quickdraw data set.”

Moniker came up with the idea for the site over a year ago, and received a grant through the Mozilla foundation to build it. The three month project took the team closer to twelve. Do Not Draw a Penis can recognize penises because Moniker recruited volunteers and hired individuals via Amazon’s mechanical turk to draw 15,000 images, from flowers to penises, to train an AI of their own. (The team paid the artists Dutch minimum wage, they say, for the efforts.) Through the finished site, Moniker will source more and more penises, too, which will inform its ever-growing, penis-laden public data set.

[Image: courtesy Moniker]

It’s a joke, sure, and it’s worth noting that Moniker has worked for Google in the past. Still, Moniker views the deletion or censorship of penises from projects like Quick Draw! as a “moral reality big tech companies are imposing on our global community.” It’s one thing to scrub penises from a social network or public, all-ages website. It’s another to delete them from a data set used that could be used by developers, researchers, and computer scientists to avoid the topic altogether.

Furthermore, penis sketch detection is a technology that we could really use. Earlier this year, when Nintendo launched a way for the public to create and upload levels in to its popular game, Super Smash Bros., players immediately started building penis-themed levels. Nintendo had actually coded penis detection into the level creator, it just didn’t detect phallic shapes well enough to stop them. As such, a relatively family-friendly game became something loaded with overt innuendo. Nintendo’s human content oversight team could barely keep up with the penis trolling.

In other words, the world needs to draw penises if we don’t want to see penises everywhere well into the future. So go get drawing. If you want to see what others have drawn—and why would you—there’s a playback-only version of the site here. And if you want to “support this cause,” Moniker has released a tea towel featuring 5,000 of the penises users have submitted to the site so far. You can buy one here.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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