AI Party: The Inexplicable

You have to admire the imagination of a child. For those readers who are parents: how many times have you happened upon your kid scrawling on a sheet of paper and said, “WOW! Look at THAT! That’s just great…. um. What is it?”

Then, as the kid embarked upon a long, detailed explanation of their creation, you could only sit back and marvel at the time, thought, and imagination at work behind this little opus.

I’ll let you in on a secret. AI is a lot like that vividly imaginative child. In fact, the child has an edge over AI. You’ll see what I mean in this post. Visuals are powerful, and I tend to think that a visual medium is the best means to demonstrate the point.

The graphics in this post were all generated during an AI party—one in which my family and I doubled over in fits of teary laughter, given how wild the results were. (If you’re a new reader and you’re wondering what an “AI Party” is, refer to this first blog post on the topic.)

The very first post on this site was written with the theme, “A New Chapter.” We asked the Discord server on Midjourney to “imagine” images that would suit this topic, and the graphic below appeared in the results set.

The inexplicable: is that a God neuron or a giant sack of gestating spiders?

The landscape of books is intriguing, if a bit literal, but…. what is THAT THING in the sky, and what, if anything, does it have to do with a new chapter? If I were making an animated short from this photo, I’d have the little figure slogging and stumbling his way through the uneven brickwork of books beneath his feet, then looking up. He halts. A few heartbeats later, that strappy object in his left hand drops to the ground. What are we seeing? A neuron of God? The egg sack of a galactic spider? I don’t have an answer either. Photo wildly dreamed up by Midjourney.

 

Reading in an aquarium

This was also concocted from the theme, “A New Chapter.” I love reading in aquariums, don’t you? Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it! Better hope you have gills, though. Looks like she’s right there, reading with the fishes. Photo wildly dreamed up by Midjourney.

 

High priestess of time in the desert

Midjourney dreamed up this photo for the topic of “Time Traveler.” I dub this photo the “High Priestess of the Desert of Time.” AI often takes concepts just a little too literally. That’s a serious collection of clocks behind the priestess! Photo dreamed by Midjourney.

 

A visceral sense of time

I don’t know what Midjourney was thinking when it produced this graphic for the concept of “A New Chapter.” There’s something intriguing and visceral about this image. It seems to live and breathe like a flesh and blood being. Even the “plants” in the picture have branches of veins, and organic objects dangling from the tenuous branches like ripe cherries. I have no explanation for the blood-blister bubbles hovering in the sky, or the gray minnows swimming past the moon. Photo wildly dreamed by Midjourney.

Take-home message. We hear a lot about AI, particularly in the creative arena. Artists, actors, and writers are shaken by the creative abilities of artificial intelligence—and they are considerable, as we saw in this post. It’s illuminating to have some understanding of generative AI. The bot receives a request to create something—a graphic, a poem, a story—and then goes through a sequential process. First it plugs in the knowns (literal things like books for “A New Chapter,” or clocks for “Time Traveler”), and then when it’s confronted by unknowns, it goes through an iterative guessing game to fill in the blanks.  It’s not a being who lives in a world of gravity, air, water, earth, light, darkness, color, emotions, soul, and visceral sensation. It can call upon a vast database of text and imagery created by humanity, but it doesn’t have the flesh-blood context to tell whether its extrapolation makes earthly sense. Hence, women reading books in an aquariums.

I’ve been asking myself the question that many creatives have been asking recently: “Will AI replace human writers and actors anytime soon?” I have a few thoughts about that as an artist and an IT professional. I’ll write on it in future weeks and provide a link back to this post.