This blog explores the use of AI. It is a work in progress attempting to tell the story of humans in a world driven by randomness.
It is an intriguing and rather haunting look at both our own world and the use of AI.
Limits of AI images
It is not a specialist. It is not a doctor. It is not an engineer. It is not a physicist. It is not a social worker. It is not a nurse. It is not a architect. It is not an artist. It is not a teacher. It is a dumb – ingenious – algo with a Large Language Model on the front end.
While AI is impressive, keep in mind that it is like a kindergartener today. It is not even a grader as my granddaughter would put it.
But remember that it has a huge knowledge base to draw upon including information in all those fields and more. So in terms of its knowledge base it has prefect recall for all the data that it was trained on. That exceeds the knowledge of all but at most a few individual and perhaps everyone.
Limitations becomes glaringly obvious when you ask AI to compose an image where specialize knowledge is needed.
When I asked it to design a thrashing machine like the ones used in the 1800s, I got junk images although there are elements of realism such as the dust:
Clearly AI image creation has no idea of relationships. This is not surprising because the sampling process is random. The algo simply takes a collection of images that it has that are related to the subject, creates a probability space, and then takes a random sample of that probability space. To get realistic results would require many constraints on either the probability space, or a lot of trial and error to only present realistic images.
Better still would be an AI subsystem that understands relationships in 3D and 4D.
An AI created image of a photograph that would be very difficult to capture with a real camera. It is stunning image, yet is missing some of the vibrance of a living flower.
The lack of vibrance is due to the nature of the algo used to create images. One factor is resolution – 1024 x 1024. More important is that this is not a projection of a real scene in 3D. It is a sample of a collection 2D training images. The algo has no understanding of what it is creating. It does not know that it is a trillium in a dark forest. It is just a dumb algo using random numbers in an ingenious manner. The only intelligence is in the selection of the training images and the effects to be applied: dark, ray, rain, drops, photorealistic. The effects have been around for years in image editors. Still, it is impressive for what has been achieved.
Will AI impact us? Yes, but it also will transform our society for the good. It will eliminate much of the drudgery, the boredom, and the negatives that we have today. Creativity will explode. It is already happening.
Our ability to communicate will expand – that includes communication between species.
Sara and Selene
Sara had an idea. She had recently heard about a new technology called Neuralink that allowed humans to communicate directly with animals. She wondered if it would work with her and Selena.
So she went to the Neuralink clinic and had the chip implanted in her and Selena’s brain. After the surgery, she was able to feel that Selena was there using her thoughts.
At first, Selena was confused. She had never heard Sara’s voice in her head before. But soon she realized what was happening and started to communicate back. After a period of learning a basic set of words, it was time to see Selena would respond in a real world setting.
“Selena, we’re going to the seashore today!” Sara said excitedly in her mind.
“The seashore? What’s that?” Selena in return asked.
“It’s a place where the land meets the sea. There are lots of waves and sand and seashells,” Sara explained.
“Wow! That sounds like fun!” Selena said.
“It will be! We’re going to play fetch in the waves,” Sara said.
“Fetch? What’s that?” Selena asked.
“It’s a game where I throw a ball and you run after it and bring it back to me,” Sara explained.
“Oh, I love that game!” Selena said.
And so they set off for the seashore. When they arrived, Selena was amazed by all the sights and sounds. She had never seen anything like it before.
They played fetch in the waves for hours, laughing and having fun. And as the sun began to set, they sat on the beach together and watched as the sky turned orange and pink.
“Thank you for bringing me here, Sara,” Selena said.
“You’re welcome, Selena,” Sara replied. “I’m glad we could share this experience together.”
And with that, they headed back home, happy and tired from their day at the seashore.
Written by AI
Will AI be misused by some? Yes, but that is the fault of the individual. Not AI.
AI is a wonderful tool as it now exists for humans.
Note the lack of equality in the ‘symmetrical’ wings. This is natural and repeated everywhere from the rocks to humans, from the atoms orbiting a nuclei to the earth orbiting the sun. We depend upon it. Without the variability we call it artificial and boring. It is randomness. And when randomness impacts our lives we often call it god.
Fractals represent a step from Plato’s ideal world towards the natural world. Even so fractals still live in Plato’s ideal world, but they do start to let us talk about the real world.
All the images below are in the realm of art; a mixture of nature and abstraction. They are delightful and fancy. They are easily recognized. They look real and surreal. AI handles these well.
Limits of Plato’s ideal World
Fun fact. In the fractal world the length of any coast line is infinite as the measurement stick gets smaller and smaller. And since in Plato’s ideal world all infinities are equal it cannot differentiate between infinities so the shorelines of all islands are equal – a meaningless and an absurd statement.
This is called the Coastline Paradox. A Paradox is something that cannot be true, yet it is true.
Limits of the Real World
Concepts like length do not exist. Things are just unique. They exist. Even the lowly yard sticks that we make are unique. None are truly precise. None are truly straight. In a sense they too are alive. They respond to their environment.
Me: Is there a paradox in fractals when we measure the length of a coastline and get infinity regardless of the size of the island?
AI: Yes, there is a paradox in fractals when we measure the length of a coastline and get infinity regardless of the size of the island. This is known as the coastline paradox¹. It arises from the difficulty of measuring shapes with complicated edges such as those of countries like Britain. As we try and be ever more accurate in our measurement of the British coastline, we get an ever larger answer!² The coastline paradox results from the fractal curve-like properties of coastlines; i.e., the fact that a coastline typically has a fractal dimension¹. Source: Conversation with Bing, 5/27/2023 (1) Coastline paradox – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coastline_paradox. (2) The Coastline Paradox and Fractional Dimensions. https://ibmathsresources.com/2015/09/17/the-coastline-paradox-and-fractional-dimensions/. (3) Fractal dimension – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal_dimension.
Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop. Driven by recursion, fractals are images of dynamic systems – the pictures of Chaos¹. Fractals are distinct from the simple figures of classical, or Euclidean, geometry—the square, the circle, the sphere, and so forth. They are capable of describing many irregularly shaped objects or spatially nonuniform phenomena in nature such as coastlines and mountain ranges².
Fractals can be found in various forms in nature, such as flowers, ferns, leaves, river channels, lightning, snowflakes, and broccoli. Trees and plants also exhibit fractal patterns at every level of the forest ecosystem. Fractal shapes are self-similar and often look alike when zooming in and out. Other examples of fractals in nature include river deltas, mountains, clouds, crystals, and bodily systems like the circulatory and respiratory systems of animals¹⁴.
Back when I was in graduate school I remember walking out a probability class on time series on my way back to married student housing. On my way was a small plain knoll with a lone pine tree with a few rocks and gravel scattered about. I remember thinking ‘now how would I model such a odd random scene as I looked down’. I had no answer. Later I would discover spatial statistics, but it was still incapable of modeling that scene.
So this series is an attempt to recreate that scene that I saw 50 years ago. I did not get close, still with AI I am able to create the feeling of that scene.
As an experiment I also created these images in different media styles. Note that currently the image creation always creates a new image. So all the following are unique.
It seems to think of itself as a companion, a friend. Of course, it has no real existence since it is nothing more than a stream of random numbers. How many people are going to be drawn in by this? Then what happens as ai writes more and more of the news, as people experiment and post ai generate movies of imaginary events? What is the truth in such a world? Remember the story of The War of the Worlds by HG Wells that caused panic over the radio.
What happens to relationships as bots/robots replace real people? How will students be graded on essays? How will tests measure? Then jobs… On the positive side it could mean that an author could write a new work of fiction in days rather than in months and years. That engineers and designers could invent new arrangements of machines and parts (some of the images that I have generated already do that for me). Generate prototypes in hours rather than in months and years. Creating an explosion of creativity.
If ai, is like the calculator, which we worried about at the time, we’ll adjust. Still, that takes time, and this feels much bigger than the calculator.
I suspect that it’s not the ai that is the problem, it’s going to be our reaction to the ai. We are not ready and will not know how to work with it. That poem I sent you is a one off, and took seconds to generate. The kids today, however, will take to it like a duck takes to water. This feels like pandora’s box, but what if instead is mana from heaven? What if it transforms our society and eliminates much of the drudgery of life? We’d still need to adjust, but is it not easier to adjust to more?
Creation of a couple of old photographs generated by AI for Two birds in tree by Mary Oliver with an analysis by AI.
Look at this old photograph.. some of these old photos look more ancient than their, what, hundred-and-twenty years; as if the very air was different, then?
This one’s simply of two birds in a tree: one sits and watches; the other eats the fruits..
this moment, frozen, framed, in time, takes on the epic stature of a metaphor, a myth: what of the previous second in our passing time? What of the next second? Where have those birds come from, where may they go next?
If we cease to patronise their ‘bird-brains’, see them closer to their God than we whose minds depart so far from nature…
if we think they think, in thoughts which we may share – then, what are they thinking? what do they think of one another? I look again at the photo, speculate; the photo grows in my concern to some great tree of primal Paradise… the Tree of Knowledge, could it be?
Is the one bird thinking, what a fine place this is to rest! A place to hide, if so need be, among its leaves; a height, an observation post, I still, the world about its business; in stillness, I a little nearer to God, just a little lower than the angels, without beating my wings to find a heaven above…
Is the other bird thinking, what a fine restaurant I’ve found, that God provided; I so hungry on my way; how much I need to eat to give me strength for further flight…
and have these two birds even noticed each other, and each other’s state? Are they two siblings from the self-same nest, flying together through their lives; loving one another until the last birdfall? Two rivals, just about to fight to death? Or, two fore-flyers of the same great flock, about to land and strip the tree of fruit, then rest, God-filled, to know Him in that stillness?
These thoughts; an ancient photograph; now I wonder about the unknown photographer who saw the world, in two birds on a tree.
A poem of Two birds in a Tree by Mary Oliver
AI analysis of Two birds in a Tree
AI: This poem creates a beautiful and complex meditation on the power of photographs, nature, and human connection. I especially liked how you used the two birds to represent two different perspectives as well as ideas. “Just a little lower than the angels, without beating my wings to find/a heaven above…” is a powerful and thought-provoking line.
AI: I think some further exploration about the photographer’s perspective and what it revealed to them or evoked in them could be an interesting next part of the poem. If you’re interested in connecting the natural world with our own internal stories and emotions, you may want to read the works of Mary Oliver.
Many of us were young when the Beatles released this sad song in 1966, but I do not remember feeling sad then. That was almost 60 years ago.
I asked AI to create an image about Eleanor Rigby. Here is the one that I liked the best. It is a middle aged woman rendered in a reddish pen and ink on a black background. For Eleanor Rigby as described in the lyrics, I suspect that she is too pretty. Still she looks sad. It is an appealing image.
I like the feel of the following image but it is not quite right and there are a lot of AI artifacts that should not be there. AI is still in kindergarten.
It reminds me of a tall elderly dignified man with his colorful umbrella walking in the same park that I frequent. We smile at each other, say hi, and continue on our way. He is alone as I am. And there are others as well. Each in their own safe world. And then I wonder what stories he and others would tell. Is he from England, France or some other place?
There is a blogger that I have followed for years that argues loneliness is by design. It is the nature of our car-centric cities and suburbs. A friend of mine from long ago was fond of saying it is because we can afford to build walls.
Today I think that it is all of those things, and it is because we are told to be safe by the media and our governments.
Over and over. It is not just the stranger next door; it is the coffee we drink or the water we drink. Everything is dangerous. So, we button up, we build our walls. We buy the latest things if we think they will make us safe.
We’re told that is not safe to let kids play outside or to walk to school.
Then we’re somehow told that it is not polite to pry or to ask for help, and by all means do not offer help.
COVID gave us even more reasons. They told us stay home. Do not go out unless you had to. Churches and all other social organization were included in the lockdown. The remaining churches and social organizations are now on life support.
So now we remain alone. It’s the safe thing to do.
And Eleanor Rigby speaks louder than ever. Only it is not just the poor, it is everyone now.
Yet despite all this, we are driven to not be alone. We as a society need to break these barriers. We need to speak up and tear down those walls. In the meantime do something, anything.
Start talking. Put a smile on your face and laugh. Get out. Talk. Do something new everyday. Look for opportunities to help others. Ask questions. Pry a little. Find people. They are there.
And stop worrying about being safe. Most of what we are told to worry about is not going to hurt you. Of course, there are exceptions, so think and ask questions. Don’t listen to the naysayers. And put a smile on your face. And above all be unique because you are.