Loab, what is the “ghost haunting AI”?

Experimenting with generative artificial intelligence, the Supercomposite artist has shaped a fascinating entity that very much represents the potential of this technology.

Among all the interesting applications of artificial intelligence, image generation is one of the most fun. But not only; many observers also expect the rise of these technologies to significantly change the way we view art. For now, humanity is at the very beginning of this great adventure; however, we are already seeing anecdotes emerge that illustrate some aspects of this major paradigm shift.

Such an interesting story came out of the work Supercomposite, noted by ScienceAlert. He is an artist who has built a small reputation as a pioneer; he was one of the first creators to foray into artificial intelligence applied to art.

He particularly focused on so-called “text-to-image” generators such as DALL-E and others. They allow you to create a description using simple textual notation in everyday language (we’re talking about “want”). For example, if we specify a “lion’s roar” in such an algorithm, it will try to create a convincing representation of a cat in full voice.

Image generated by “Lion qui roar” thanks to MidjourneyAI. © Journal du Geek

Taking generative AIs on the other hand

In recent months, Supercomposite has been experimenting a lot with the concept of “negative fast”. Very briefly, this involves telling the algorithm not to create an image that matches the command; Instead, she should try to stay away from him as much as possible.

This is a very interesting process on several levels. In purely algorithmic terms, this allows researchers to study the unexpected behavior of their programs to improve their understanding of these tools.

This also applies to the artistic side. Because these negative suggestions do not always make sense for a person; for example, it is difficult to imagine what the “opposite” of the lion quoted above could be. Therefore, it is very interesting to observe how AI-based programs interpret these queries, as very surprising results are often obtained.

The supercomposite actor wondered what the “opposite” of Marlon Brando might look like. He therefore tested this hypothesis using a negative cue. Let’s try to guess what AI has to offer in return. Maybe a female character since Brando is male? Released. Animal? Not anymore. An inanimate object? About ! with this request, the artist obtained an abstract logo with no obvious connection to the actor.

This perfectly illustrates the counter-intuitive side of the results these negative cues produce. But this is only the beginning. Because after the designer got his logo, he asked himself a quite natural question in the continuity of his work: what would happen if he did? turned upside down » sound again « Marlon Brando turned upside down »?

With this chain of inversions, he just wanted to see if the algorithm would eventually stand up. Little did he know that the answer would mark the beginning of a funny story.

Recurring appearances of the artificial intelligence “fantasy”.

Because the algorithm did not return to Vito Corleone’s translator. Instead, he created several unsettling images that all depict the same thing: a woman with features that look very sad or pained, perfectly suited to horror fiction.

The artist explains that he immediately realized that “ anomaly “. Therefore, he chose to focus on this mysterious entity since it was called Loab. And he quickly realized that this was not a completely isolated mistake. Repeating the experiment many times, Supercomposite continued to see Loab appearing everywhere. The characteristics each time it was different, but always disturbing enough and, above all, consistent enough to be identified.

Supercomposite then attempted to combine Loab’s original image with other AI-generated images. And here the story took a more interesting turn. Because every time Loab invited himself into a character, the product was systematically disturbing, even bad or downright gore. Even combining it with Kirby, Nintendo’s beloved candy pink mascot, the result was pretty disturbing.

Another special point is that it is not related to the classical command; There really isn’t a specific keyword to tell the algorithm to create an image of this object. In other words, typing this word is not enough for it to appear. ” It’s an island that appears in a hidden space that we don’t yet know how to find with classic queries. “, the author explains.

Continuing to combine the same Loab image, Supercomposite ” dilute » after many iterations, its characteristic features were no longer really recognizable. But by combining several of these “dilutions”, this face systematically reappeared. Generally, this only happens when the subject in question is already present in the images used to train the algorithm. But that was not the case with Loab.

A digital manifestation of the collective imagination

Some observers interpreted this recurring presence as some kind of bad omen. Loab’s presence taints AI products with a kind of evil aura. In an interview with ABC, Supercomposite also explains that it was warned by religious fundamentalist groups.

Of course, this “AI ghost” is not a supernatural phenomenon; it is simply the product of an algorithm that processes the data, nothing more, nothing less. The artist also ” extraordinary statistical accident “.

It is interesting to try to understand how such an accident could give rise to a concept so consistent and determined, yet re-emerge in a clearly identifiable manner in different works.

The answer is partly clear. All such generative systems learn to compose images through a training process. Very briefly, it’s about giving it a lot of imagery while clearly showing its content. Thus, an artificial neural network can learn to make connections between images and their textual descriptions. Often these images come directly from the Internet.

© Andrea De Santis – Unsplash

However, today we can also consider the Internet as a species a concrete manifestation of the collective imagination. By posting their texts, pictures, and moods online, natives are also feeding a kind of massive database of the human psyche.

And since the algorithm necessarily extracts from these fragments of life to give substance to this being, we can count it as well. a symbolic reflection of a dark corner of our collective imagination. ” In a way, it’s scarier than dealing with a supernatural entity. “Judges Supercomposite.

A new window into the human psyche?

But from there we find ourselves in a dead end. This is the whole problem with machine learning; we know what we have on input, we get a result on output, but everything that happens in between is often too abstract for the human brain. In a way, AI has reasons that the human mind ignores ; therefore, it is impossible to determine objectively what Loab represents, why it tends to reappear in this way, or why it is consistently associated with macabre imagery.

Of course, you should be careful enough and beware of hasty conclusions. But it’s also an interesting thought exercise. Because in the end Loab a’s is above all else A truly innovative artistic approach at the borders of art, crowd psychology, digital folklore and artificial intelligence. And it’s entirely possible that one day this kind of work will allow humanity to learn a little more about AI in general … and about itself.

Posted in Art

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