Tuesday, May 2, 2023

AI Art or How I Learned to Count Electric Sheep


Working on Besnowed as a part of Nights & Weekends has me thinking a lot about AI. I think the general memes and news trends have most people thinking about AI, but being close to so many builders at Buildspace has made me think of it as more than a toy.

There are multiple words there that either explain everything or mean nothing depending on how niche your knowledge of my life is.

Besnowed is my latest novel and you can read a draft by clicking here.

Nights & Weekends is a cool project from Buildspace that supports and motivates people to create and express themselves.

Buildspace is, however, very much entrenched in the world of San Francisco tech and as such attracts many people who are also looking to explore the cutting edge of that world. Today, that means a lot of projects looking into and using AI.

That has in turn exposed me to a lot of what modern advances in AI can do. From the steady stream of memes falling out of Chat GPT to the image at the top of this post, it is all rather impressive, bordering on unbelievable.



A little surreal in a hard to describe way, but otherwise decent enough.

Don't mind the ski lift of death. Or the midtown railroad?

These are still probably nice enough for a decent chunk of people. But these were the three best I was left with after having wrestled with multiple tools that all have strange names I forgot two seconds after closing them.
And that's not a dig at AI tools but rather what I want to highlight. Me, someone who knows nothing about the code or how it works or any of that, I typed "generate ai art" in a google search and a few hours later had pretty images readymade.

That's insane!

The process also felt familiar in an odd way. The way these art generators tend to work, or at least the ones I was using - I think some flavor of stable diffusion - is entirely based on a text prompt. I typed in a few words and phrases and the electronic brain then created what it thought fits.

It's a bit finicky though. In a way that reminded me of how you used to need to know how to use weird phrases to google correctly. It feels like gently coaxing the AI toward the idea rather than immediately receiving the exact output I expected.
And I often ended up tweaking words or just rerunning the process to try and find a slightly better version of what I had in my head. Or more truthfully, desperately trying to word things in a way that didn't result in a surreal nightmare.

Speaking of which, I originally walked down this path because I seemed to know via Twitter osmosis that AI animation is a thing and should be reasonably easy to do. At least one of those is true. After a few more hours trying to understand what tool I needed or wanted I was wrestling with words, trying to flirt with the AI again, ending up with something else pretty neat.