More on AI

I’ve been thinking about LLMs like ChatGPT, which I’m experimenting with right now.

After a hazy recall of a dream last night, it occurred to me, in my experience, LLMs are dreamlike in their oddities and quirks. They put things in that don’t make sense, like in a dream where something out of place is right there, being believed by your sleeping mind.

They’re also stubborn, and seem to have a hard time admitting error.

I’ve definitely been rethinking using my ainimal images for publication or profit. It’s not something I want to do. I expect artificially generated images will take work away from skilled human artists. This is a valid argument. I understand it’s my personal view and also understand others’ use of such images can be justified.

So why is “dreamlike” a good descriptor? It’s the suspension of disbelief LLMs share with the common experience of dreaming. It’s the apparent assumption by the LLM that everything’s fine and correct, when a human can detect it isn’t.

Another thought about the danger of LLMs is simply, we’ve been damaged by technology in many different ways, from the dawn of technology, which is a very long time ago. So the damage being caused by LLMs is just more of the same type of thing. Getting upset by this is a common human experience. It hasn’t been the end of the world up to now. I expect LLMs won’t be the end of the world either.

AI likes the transformer shape, so it puts in extras. And I specified “sparks at the very top of the pole”. It kept putting them in the middle. AI doesn’tunderstand power transmission, at all.


I’m experimenting with one of ChatGPT’s image generators. Here are some results. I’ll be writing more about this.

To begin with, it’s not anything close to human intelligence. Kind of dumb, actually, and prone to getting itself stuck in blind alleys. It also has quirks that make it obvious it’s an LLM. Many times I’d ask it to remove a unwanted image part and it would say it did it when it clearly hadn’t.

It’s very plain I’m interacting with just another computer program, a powerful one, of course, but still just a program. It’s quickly clear my input is the most important part of the interaction, needing a lot of thought and careful noting of what the program does with parts of the input prompt.

I went into this experiment to explore ChatGPT’s creative or artistic possibilities. I found it worked well if I simplified a great deal. This isn’t surprising, and fits within my usual aesthetic or design approach of simplify, simplify, simplify. The images here are defined as “image of an animal, 20th century linoleum cut style, contained within a simple circular frame, with lots of white space around the circle, muted colors, only three or four colors maximum, in a square screensize”.

Defining the basic style, such as engraving, lithograph, oil painting etc., gives the program a narrower set of things to choose from when it constructs an image. I’ve been avoiding anything with words, as graphical LLMs have a very hard time, oddly, with words and letters, and can be quite stubborn about insisting it’s spelling or forming letters correctly. It’s good to remember there are humans behind the programming of ChatGPT, who make human decisions based on all kinds of circumstances, such as intellectual property.

Simplification removes some of the quirkiness of LLM, or at least makes the quirks more acceptable. The more complex and realistic renderings tend to have weirdness in the odd place, signs of non-human presence. I’m also not attracted to the discernable AI Style. It’s quite possible I’m just not putting the right words into my prompts.

The program can create some very attractive visual elements, impressively so. Frames, strokes and flourishes are often aesthetically pleasing.

I’m also narrowing down the subject matter, envisioning an “A is for Aardvark” type of sequence. These images appear to be well suited to book or picture form, as well as the web. Children will like them. And everyone likes critters.

More later.


Later: I’m not going into the social or economic parts of LLM graphical programs. That’s a vast issue by itself, and we’re at the very early stages. We don’t know what real-life impact LLM will have on artists’ fortunes. I’ll write about it at some point, but want for the moment to look at technical and aesthetic aspects of this new thing.

I’m a technologist who’s earned a living in information technology since 1982, so the technical puzzle appeals to my curiosity and I want to see if I can put it to use. I have friends who are very upset at graphical LLMs, coming from an arts professional place. I’m no arts professional, and can be a bit of a money-grubber at times, so it doesn’t feel as dire to me.

P is for Pig

Q is for Quetzal

G is for Gerbil

C is for Cat

Machines and Creativity

Doc Searls wrote about AI and feeling – “Feeling is human” – and the lack of human creativity in the new technologies.

My mind immediately connected his post to David Hockney’s video “Photoshop is boring“, where the artist rambles on in his intelligent and humorous way about art, photography, imaging technology and where technology has brought us.

Hockney, of course, paints and draws. He says people don’t draw anymore, it’s all photography, and it all starts to look the same, stale and boring. “Magazines used to be full of drawings, now it’s all photographs”, he says. Photoshop and other technology helps us get to this boring state, faster all the time, and I expect AI is increasing this exponentially.

Hockney is also a photographer, indeed has for many years explored the edges of what photography can do. He approaches the act of photography in a painterly way, meaning he’s seeing more intensely than a lot of photographers are capable of. He was unsatisfied with the flatness of most photographs, flatness both in space and in time. The decisive moment, a flat image and a flat point in time.

Photographers break out of the boring state by being unhappy/unsatisfied with the single image most photographs consist of. Duane Michals broke out of the decisive moment, which he spoke of with scorn, by doing sequences. He also started writing and drawing on his photographs. The art world was shocked. His sequences are analogous to Hockney’s collage of photographic images, both of them multiple images expanding the photographer and the viewer’s passage through time and space.


This seems a bit trite, but I’m not trying to do much here except get some words out. I could make it less trite with a bit more work, most likely in additional posts. Hockney has long been a favorite, and his videos are relaxed disquisitions on art, observation, technology, a whole bunch of related activities, all coming from his uninhibited expression, his enjoyment of life and his constant, focused work. I recommend listening to Hockney (many short videos are online) if you want to have new thoughts about art, creativity and technology.

I like how writing a blog post slows me down and throttles back the usual over-stimulation the web produces in my brain. An exercise in exploration and focus. More of this would be helpful to me. Art, and I’m not claiming this is art except in the sense putting words together can produce aesthetic feelings and thoughts, is not so much in the viewing as in the doing.


Back to Hockney and AI – Hockney’s productive. Work work work, smoke smoke smoke, 86 years old and still blasting along. Would AI’s sped-up “productivity” create anything like what Hockney does every day, at his own steady pace? No way. The human’s out in front. AI’s trying and failing to catch up. Hockney doesn’t “make content”, he makes art, which he explains in the phrase, referring to an owl sculpture by Picasso “that’s not an owl, that’s an account of a human being looking at an owl”.


“We were just in the Picasso show, you know, and looking at that owl, that marvelous owl, and today I pointed out, some people just stuff a real owl and put it in a case. [makes a sour face] Not very interesting. I was explaining to my young friend, why Picassos are so marvelous is, it isn’t an owl, it’s a human being looking at an owl. It’s an account of a human being looking at an owl. That’s what thrills us, and there’s more owlness there than in the stuffed owl.”


A later post about machines and creativity: AInimals. And another: More on AI.

Hockney talking
Hockney talking
Pearblossom Highway
Pearblossom Highway, David Hockney
Death Comes to the Old Lady, Duane Michals
Death Comes to the Old Lady, Duane Michals
The Decisive Moment, Indeed (Cartier-Bresson)
The Decisive Moment, Cartier-Bresson
Picasso's Owl
Picasso’s Owl