Based on a recent post thinking about AI, I was thinking deeply about Dead Ringers. I started to think that David Cronenberg’s film could be read as an introduction to the challenges of dealing with fundamentally foreign minds like general AI. To be clear, Cronenberg does not introduce us to a strange robot or computer à la HAL 9000, but rather gives us two humans, Drs. Elliot and Beverly Mantle who exhibit alien intelligence despite behaving eccentrically by “standard human” estimation.1 Cronenberg imagines for us, in this film, what our interactions with the uncanny intelligence of AI might be like.
We seem to be living through some sort of an AI blossom after the AI winter
that began in the mid 1980’s. In the intervening years, many in the tech
community had given up on the hope of AI. However, the rise of cheap,
heavy-computation-friendly GPUs meant the birth of “machine learning,” “data
science,” and “(un-)supervised learning” to train models. With these models
trained, applications could be built that churned out uncanny and remarkably
good results e.g. ChatGPT4.
For the first time in recent memory, it seems that specific-purpose, if not
general-purpose, AI may be a fact of our lifetimes.
And this is just the beginning.
Not only are AI manipulating strings of text seemingly intelligently, they’re
generating art and images from text as well. We’re even using AI to create new
artifacts for special purpose. For example, an AI-designed aerospace product
was recently commissioned by NASA. The component looks more like an alien
spacecraft or biomechanical art than a functional component. But it functions
to its purpose and meets the prescribed tolerances.
This product is eerily different, freed as it is from the burdens of
humanity’s history of ideas around Earthbound biomechanical motion:
or Earthly geometry as in Euclid’s Elements:
or Earthly paradigms around materials’ behavior and economic constraints.
It’s trite, but necessary and profound to note:
Alien intelligences produce staggeringly alien artifacts.1
But can we see alien intelligence’s products among us today? I’m sure there are
factual examples, but what came to my mind were the alien-looking artifacts the
created by alienated among us in art. In the AI-designed space components, I
saw an aesthetic similarity to the Gynecological Devices for Operating on
Mutant Women from the 1988 David Cronenberg film, “Dead Ringers.”
Cursive – About learning to embrace cursive and fountain pens
Around the Internet
Grid World by Alex Miller: I still fondly remember the first time I saw quadrille paper. Over the years I’ve used it to make D&D maps, record video games, and even do the proofs for my logic class. It’s a wonderful and powerful and simple tool that opens so many imagined spaces. Here’s a celebration of what grids give us – also, tons of interesting web design/web art.