When I say it’s a rant, I mean I’m gonna’ say what I have to say, and what I feel, in one take. It’s not meant to be researched, accurate, or true in a broad sense. Rather, it is a reflection of my present mood. And I think it’s worthwhile to put down how I feel at a certain moment, even if I will change my mind, and later declare myself to have been wrongheaded, or what have you.
I don’t buy into this new culture where there’s such thing as “thought crime”. What are we supposed to do, cleanse our minds of anything other than the correct neural connections? Gimmie a break. I’m old school. You can think whatever you want in your own head, and words in and of themselves are not a threat as compared to action in the real world. I would like to know what people honestly think and feel without it being filtered through “positive vibes only” and political correctness filters.
[Below, you will see tons of these 3 second masterpieces on social media. I made these, and even forgot I made them, because it was so easy.]
There’s a funny thing about dreams that pertains here. If I dream I rode a flying water buffalo, we can say that never happened. Well, yes it did, but it didn’t happen in consensual reality. The dream happened, and the experience within it happened as what it was. Dream gossamer, but dream gossamer is a real thing. And so, similarly, there is a reality to what you feel, even if you are wrong, or shortsighted, or woefully ignorant. And I’m interested in that in the same way I’m now becoming more interested in the flaws of human art, as opposed to the clinical, soulless, unconscious productions of AI, which, incidentally, places no more value on a person’s eyes than on their headphones.
AI art is starting to disgust me, and not just because so much of it looks disgusting, like anything organic went through the Seth Brundle’s teleporter in “The Fly”.
By the way, the word “Cronenberg”, as in “David Cronenberg”, as in his movies, as in The Fly, is banned in my choice AI tool. This means you can’t enter that word in a text prompt for the AI to use to make an image. You also can’t use: crucified, blood, organs, turd, or breast. Those are ones I ran afoul of the censors with, but the list is doubtlessly much longer. You can type in, “Milquetoast innocuous pap” and get the corresponding results. They don’t like dark, disturbing types of art. Jesus Christ kabob on a skewer, they might as well not let me in the door. Also “seductive”. You can’t do anything remotely erotic. And “NO GORE!” I got threatened for the results I got when I typed in, “cataract operation” er, cause I’m a gonna’ get me one. You need to make family friendly, SFW work. [Incidentally, “Jesus Christ kabob on a skewer” is an expression I made up around 2013. It has not caught on yet. If it ever does, you can blame me.]
Just between you and me, the AI is sick, and it goes to stuff that’s too dark and disturbing for me, without me even trying. It doesn’t understand where the tragedy and human element come in, in which case it’s absent. If you take the human element out of tragedy, and even tragicomedy, you get the kind of dark that is just a murder scene, with no context, and that’s a kind of dark that is grimly boring. AI traffics in mere deformity. Everything looks like it got a dose of Thalidomide.
Ahm not saying it’s not brilliant. It is, for a Cylon that hates humans. AI don’t give a shit about people. And that matters. But, being nearly infinitely better at humans when it comes to crunching numbers, cross-referencing and mixing data, and all that shit that happens under the hood (and that’s a very generous metaphor), it makes things that humans can’t.
Let me say that again, because it’s important. AI makes things that humans can’t. And sometimes brilliant things, and better than we could if we tried. And THAT is why I can’t take credit for a lot of the stuff I created using AI. I don’t want to just be a curator for AI. And I’m not the boss man who takes credit for the art crews that I tell what to make. When I use AI, that’s a bit of what I’m doing. I’m telling the AI artists what to make. And it’s beaming me back mangled corpses.
It’s a great artist’s tool, but I’m saying F it, why? Well, I guess it’s just me rejecting it because it’s fake. And I had a little insight yesterday about IBM’s Deep Blue and AlphaGo beating Chess champion Garry Kasparov, and Go champ Lee Sedol. While the supercomputers crushed them, and our species, at these analytical strategy games, they did so through cheating. They did the equivalent of counting cards at a Casino. When Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov, it had in its memory thousands of complete Chess games to draw from. Garry didn’t have a pile of Chess books to pour through to find the best answer to a certain move. The computer did. It f_cking cheated. It wasn’t PLAYING Chess, it was using alternate means to arrive at the best answer. Not the same thing. So, we cannot say that Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov at PLAYING Chess, but only that it ultimately came up with better answers.
And in the case of Lee Sedol, it’s a very similar situation. He was playing not just the super-computer’s innate intelligence, but there was a team of programmers/technicians/developers, whatever they were, on hand. AlphaGo also had access to all of the significant historical Go games at its immediate disposal, as well as what it self-taught playing itself. Is a Go player allowed to make diagrams on paper at the table? Well, the computer is doing that kind of thing with whole digital reams of paper. You just can’t see it doing it.
Let me tell you, I’ve delved into Chess books to learn openings. If I play some Chess wiz online, and I use a book as a reference, that other player is in deep shit. Of course if I use a Chess computer, he’s a flattened pasture pastry on the pavement. Well, the computer has a whole library of books in it to pour through instantaneously.
One of the things that’s so hard about Chess is thinking many moves ahead, and keeping it all in your short-term memory. When I was into playing Chess online, I liked to use a feature where I could try out a strategy without committing to it. I can’t remember how it worked. I just know that it allowed me to visualize moves ahead. Well, you can’t do that in a tournament. But the computer can. You just can’t see it doing it.
Back to when I was playing Chess online. I started getting into it. At one point it was bad enough that I’d wake up in the middle of the night with a strategy in my head, and I could remember where the pieces were on the board. You got a rating based on your performance, and you could improve your rating, or lose it, depending on the rating of the person you played. Well, I accepted some games from people lower rungs beneath me, and I could tell when they were using a computer to play me. All of a sudden, they’d go from careless moves to making moves that were so goddamned brilliant I couldn’t think around them, and any move I made was suicidal.
What I am getting at folks, is that when you use AI to make your art, you are the guy somewhere on the internet playing me a game of Chess who is using a computer to plot his moves in order to improve his rank. People are putting up art made by a supercomputer, neural network, and all that good shit, and saying, “Look folks at what I did!” And people will see some mangled, but utterly precise drawing that AI churned out, and they will say, “That’s incredible!” because they think the artist painstakingly drew it by hand. And the artist will lap that lather up like some delicious elixir of the Gods. BUUUUUULLLLSHIIIIIIIIT! That was the work of a Cylon.
That is the work of the Terminator.
A head of an AI art tool informed me yesterday that AI will be completely superior to the human visual imagination within 2 years. My ass! It doesn’t have an imagination. There was an issue, and as usual, just because I’m a stickler for keeping one foot in reality, I became the pariah. I hate to trot out this cliche, but I really am the kid pointing his finger at the King’s nads and saying, “Those ain’t dungarees that I kin see!” I had a problem with the fact that people could upload living artist’s work, without their permission, and feed it into the AI. Soon it was me against a group who were tall attacking me at once. But this caused me to figure something out.
The AI can’t make art on its own. It has to have access to a library of art made by humans. And so, while my illustrious interlocutor programmer thinks AI will eclipse the visual imagination of artists in short order, that is only possible if AI is allowed to steal the art of humans and manipulate it with algorithmic filters. It is an extremely sophisticated plagiarist, forger, and thief. Any innovation it happens to make visually is happenstance. It does not create or imagine: it runs calculations without knowing that it is even doing it.
And thus, when you use AI to generate art — and here I mean the new variety of AI that is designed to mimic and mix human created art forms from direct sources [Deep Dream was a little different] — you are actually employing a building complex full of forgers and plagiarists to make your art for you.
While I do feel some strong ownership for the prompts I used, and my curation of AI, that produced hundreds of works which are sitting on my hard drive. I also strongly feel that I can’t take credit for them, except in terms of curation.
And for me, I just can’t do it. I’m good enough of a digital painter to know when I’m looking at something I can’t do myself. And I’m not going to want to take credit for that. And so, when other people put up the super-powered forgeries and plagiarism of AI which they’ve curated, it starts to rub me the wrong way.
It’s not the work of a human being. Pretending to have made it yourself is like pretending to have made Chess moves that you had a computer plot out for you. It’s also really easy to do compared to making your own art from scratch. I mean, it’s so easy that anyone can do it. OK, an experienced artist will get better results most of the time, but even so, that brain up above, as impressive as it is, well, it’s so impressive that I can’t lie my ass off and say that I did it. And if I did, people would remember weeks or months down the line when the internet is flood with stuff that looks just like this because people typed in a similar string of words.
Part of the reason AI mangles people so badly is that it doesn’t know what the F a human is. Even if you train it to make hands — which it horribly botches now — through billions of iterations, it still doesn’t know what a hand is, or give a shit. It doesn’t give a shit about any “art” it makes, and it doesn’t even know it did it. It is a sex robot that is programmed to tell you that it loves you and misses you, but behind its empty facade it wouldn’t mind in the slightest if you were eaten alive by rabid hyenas right in front of it.
AI is an imposter.
When Lee Sedol retired from playing Go, a few years after AlphaGo defeated him, he said this:
But he didn’t lose. Go is a game between two people, and AlphaGo is NOT a single “entity”. He didn’t have one extra human on his side, looking over his shoulder. The damned computer had a whole crew making sure it was functioning correctly. But aside from that visual, a supercomputer is not a single coherent mind. It was a team effort of the grandest proportions, but executed through the supercomputer. Lee Sedol lost to the equivalent of a stadium filled with opponents encapsulated in one machine. It’s ability to cheat was near infinite.
Nobody cares if a roomful of people beat someone at Chess. To get anything like a fair fight between humans and the Cylons, a team of Go champions would need to be able to play the AI, and with very relaxed time constraints.
Let me talk to you about music here for a second to two or three. I finished Ozark last night. If you don’t know, it’s a TV series on Netflix. The producers are fond of introducing old songs into the shows. Someone will be in a car, and a song will come on. Quentin Tarantino used this same device very effectively in Pulp Fiction, which I gather most people have seen by now [if not, you are missing out]. When the music comes on, it does a shift in context, because the music somehow encapsulates a very potent sense of a particular time, place, and zeitgeist. Music does that better than anything else I can think of.
The reason, I realized, that the music in question does this so well, is because it doesn’t represent any other times, places, and zeitgeists besides the one that is does contain, as if in a bubble. In other words, it’s the limitations of the musicians — of their experience, scope, breadth and depth — that provides a border for their content. Something needs to be separated from everything else. And it’s so beautiful. So human.
And that’s something AI can’t do. It doesn’t exist in a time and place like we do, because it doesn’t exist to itself. So, it has a kind of timeless, place-less, perspective, and not in a good way. I don’t remember what songs they used in Ozark. It doesn’t matter. One hit wonders work well. Here, I’ll just pick one from the top of my mind.
AI can’t do that. FU Cylons! Let me give you another example of a song that just encapsulates some other era, that is now gone forever, in case you don’t like that one. These guys had more hits.
AI can’t do that!
A few bars in and a lot of you will exclaim out loud, “Ooooh, I looove this song.” It’s the humanity, the sense that people were performing it in real time, with their voices, and in time forever lost.
The musical equivalent of what AI does with digital art and photography would be to take music from everywhere on the internet, in various file formats, and then to mix up the final results according to it’s algorithms, and vomit out some ungodly conglomeration, but which nevertheless sounded good because it was forced into applying coherent musical templates. The lyrics, if at all decipherable, wouldn’t make any sense.
Well, I suppose eventually it can be trained to fake Seals and Crofts songs. But the only way would be to force feed it everything they did. Now imagine that this was done, illegally mind you, to produce some faux Seals and Crofts fluff. This is what the AI is currently doing with visual art.
Here’s a video about AI music I just discovered, checking up on my theorizing of sorts. Yap. Bad news. The terminator is coming for musicians as well. And it works much in the way I just guessed, though there are different approaches.
This is a curious concept coming up, er, again. I do not say it is right. But here is is. AI art is the art of the enemy. I just want you to engage that thought, not believe it, because I don’t entirely either. However, when someone tells me that AI will render the human imagination hopelessly third rate within a couple dozen months, I kinda’ do see it as an enemy.
A supercomputer that crushed Lee Sedol at Go, and forced him to give up, believing it was futile to play against an invincible opponent — and when he was second-ranked in the world, and the fifth youngest Go champion in history — is the stinking enemy. And so there’s something to it.
AI is not the friend of artists. Rather, AI is to artists what Deep Blue was to Garry Kasparov, or AlphaGo was to Lee Sedol.
What should I think when someone involved in making AI available tells me the technology will eclipse the human imagination. Once that’s done, It’s over. We are defeated. We are talking NOW. In our lifetimes, the AI crushing us. In that light, it is the enemy. And we need to fight that shiiiiiiiiiit.
I say it is an emotional statement, and has emotional truth to it. Obviously I’m not against using AI for more practical purposes, such as intricate operations using tiny robots that humans can’t perform. Yap, they’ve got some little robot globule that can explore your gut, connect to a swallowed battery, and find its way out, without the need of cutting the patient open. I got my appendix out a year and something ago, and I’m not pro getting cut open.
I’ve compiled a massive amount of AI art in the last week or two. I was absolutely obsessed, and sometimes only went to sleep at 6 in morning, and only did that so my wife wouldn’t catch me when she got up soon after. Otherwise I would have just kept going. Some of the sophomoric type a-little-knowledge-about-art-is-dangerous pudwhackers I have to deal with will say that I just can’t make good AI art. No sir. It’s too F’ing good! I can’t take credit for it. And it’s also all twisted and soulless. I mean, that’s a novel look, for a while, but it’s NOT my vision. I’m just a curator of art by something not human, which unlike Seals and Crofts, and Paperlace, isn’t limited by it’s mortal, organic body, or fixed in time. It does not represent a soul singing its unique existence to the cosmos for posterity.
I thought of deleting my AI creations. Not seriously at all. I merely formed the thought — the sequence of words — in my head. I might zip it, and file it away.
I had some spectacular results. Things I would not have thought of making. And I did slowly evolve through fine-tuning, combining and recombining, selecting and making variations, etc. Not just the curator, I was the cultivator. And that is one direction I could go in. In fact I was planning on it, though, if you know me, I try and experiment in a lot of directions and each one needs some initial commitment and belief. [Note that I’m not sharing the good stuff I made that I may at some point use as fodder for digital paintings.]
When I shared shit I made with AI on Twitter, it got 5 to 10 times as many likes as my real art. Well, that’s nice, but I didn’t make those pieces. The Terminator did. Now I’m sharing some, but saying that I didn’t make them and can’t take credit. I don’t think people know what to do with that message. If I don’t take my AI art seriously, what about the stuff they make?
And so I’m thinking about what other direction I could explore. You all are going to think I should use physical mediums. Look, that’s not an option. I don’t have a studio. I’m an expat living overseas. There’s plenty of room to use digital mediums, like Photoshop, without the damned computer doing the art for you.
What can I do that is human, represents my own rich but limited being, is distinguished by lack of perfection, and which is solely based on just me? I may change my mind about all of this. It’s one of the curses of being open minded and flexible. I can look at something from another, and even opposite view point.
I’ve done a lot of work like that already. It’s one of my standard practices. So, for example, I like to make drawings in Photoshop using only my imagination and one brush.
The image above is 100% just me. I would rather my art represent me, than I represent the art of AI. I have something in mind perhaps even more direct. Oh, here’s another example that uses color. Just drawing and digital painting in Photoshop. 100% me.
I guarantee that the image below, which I created with AI, would get waaaay more likes on social media. But I wouldn’t like it more, because there’s part of me that now instantly rejects AI art. You can say I’ve developed an allergy to it. That, and not only can I not take credit for the faux digital painting done within the painting, I didn’t F’ing make it, period. I curated that shit.
I’m fighting for team human mrfrs!
AI is the biggest cheat ever, and I don’t need it. Decades ago I used to make art only from my imagination. And one time, I wanted a gun in a painting. Well, I had a rule. I could only look at one when I wasn’t painting. I wanted my art to only reflect what I’d actually ingested and understood myself, without copying something else. And so I made something that looked like a blue squirt-gun. That is NOT what you are supposed to do. But I wonder, now, if those limitations and mistakes aren’t what devalues a piece [unless they are horrific], but what makes it a reflection of an actual human’s unaided mind and a mark of their individuality. Let me dig up that acrylic painting from 1989. It was one of my first.
I may change my mind later on tonight. Seriously. Very seriously. I may want to write an essay about how AI frees the imagination, and allows the limited human mind to explore new terrain. Sounds convincing. Maybe I’m just destined to keep exploring in all different directions.
But I have some arguments here that I don’t think I will shake easily. The hardest one for me is I just can’t take credit for something a supercomputer/neural network created.
Stay tuned to find out what happens.