DALL·E 2 and transcendence

Transcript: “I would join this religion if it would get me a DALL-E.” “Me too, I’ll sacrifice a goat to get it maybe a child too”

Baseline

In AI baseline keeps constantly changing. In most fields, progress is slower than advertised. In deep learning, things move rapidly from “the Holy Grail” to “you can run in a Jupyter Notebook tutorial”-level. So, here goes my personal benchmark for symbolism, a Polish poster for a play Stalker (from 2012, NOT AI-generated)

“Stalker”, Polish Theater Poster by Lex Drewinski

Examples

Let’s go with a gallery of examples. There will be various ones, more and less symbolic, containing references to deities, spirits, etc. The choice is mine and purely subjective. For some prompts, ALL images were wonderful; others required cherry-picking or didn’t work at all. I generated much more, so you won’t see here a LinkedIn profile picture of a velociraptor in a suit or a lizard working as a taxi driver”.

Octopus overlords

Octopodes are smart and lone predators, attacking each other on sight (unless during courtship or on MDMA). There are the closest ones to alien minds — our last common ancestor was a flatworm, who had lived roughly 700M years ago. Their path to intelligence was different, as well as to sight. What if, in the dark depths of the oceans, they learned beyond what is conceivable by furless apes?

don’t remember prompts exactly, but something about a holy all-knowing octopus showing the path to enlightenment, as religious art or stained glass

Priests

And how about priests among various species?

Meaning

Who knows more: one who knows the answer to the meaning of Life, Universe, and Everything: a mouse, Noam Chomsky (here’s a check-mate for you), or Microsoft Word Paperclip?

Fruit of knowledge

In my headcanon, it does not matter what was the fruit of knowledge. What matters is that the fruit was fermented. In a more traditional (yet scientific) view, the problem was not eating fruit, but planning the seeds — leaving the Paradise/Arcadia of a hunter-gatherer society, to the agricultural lifestyle. See height as a marker of health and nutrition, 16 000 BCE to now.

Venus Flytraps at the Gates of Paradise

Lemons (it rhymes with “demons”) and malicious apples are one thing. What is important is that it was humans who learned from the Tree, a plant, not the other way. And now you know who guards the Garden of Eden.

“A venus flytrap with a flaming sword guarding the gates of paradise, religious art”, “Holy Venus Flytrap guarding the gates of paradise, stained glass”
“Holy Venus Flytrap, stained glass”, (something similar), “Garden of Eden Venus Flytrap, stained glass window”

Cosmic flora and fauna

Speaking about Venus Flytraps, let’s see what cosmic ones look like. And the same for ferrets. The ferret prompt idea by Philippe Cochin.

Hawaiian pizza Tarot cards

Tarot has its believers and users. For others is it superstition or black magic. For me, it is a means of artistic expression — for example, “Hexen 2.0” by Suzanne Treister, which covers “mysticism of the last century”, from the counterculture, through secret US projects, to transhumanism.

Solaris Ocean

The Ocean from “Solaris” by Stanisław Lem is another alien mind, much further than octopodes. So alien that it is hard that it challenges our assumption of what is mind.

Lovecraftian geometry

As H.P. Lovecraft wrote in “At the Mountains of Madness”:

“Non-euclidean geometry of alien ruins, a detailed drawing by M.C. Escher” (and that)

Eldritch horrors

Lovecraftian eldritch horrors as drawings from Necronomicon and religious art. Unsettling.

“eldrich horror, a drawing from Necromicon” (yes, misspelled), “eldritch horror, religious art” x2

Great Old Ones

From H.P. Lovecraft again:

End of all things

And what does the end look like?

“end of all things, digital art”; someone’s prompt idea

Life and death

Maybe the isn’t an end, but an eternal cycle.

“the infinite cycle of life and rebirth, religious art”, “a spirit in an afterlife, between incarnations” (and that)

Judeo-Christian God

So, let’s see how THEY present themselves as a pillar of flame. Well… darker than you may have imagined.

“God as a pillar of flame, digital art” (first, second, third)

Seraphim and others

It saddens me that at some point angels became presented as cupids. Let’s see how they look… or rather, go one step further, as their true form is likely in the “you cannot see their face and live” category.

“Many-eyed Seraphim, a mystical vision” (first, second, third)

Greek mythology

If countless tentacles & eyes are too much for you, let’s go to Greek mythology. At least most of them have normal human bodies.

Tolkien

Let’s not forget about Middle-earth. Not many know that Sauron's private life differs from his public image. Also — what if Galadriel took the ring?

Gender

Personally, I am far from any kind of spiritual male/female essentialism. When it comes to anything related to the psyche, while there are gender differences on average, the overlap is enormous. Still, it was interesting to play with the idea. Or rather — how does AI perceive it.

Spirits

So, what set me on the path of generating such images? I got curious about how DALL·E 2 melds ideas and asked to generate “A spirit in a waterfall of hearts”, specifying that it should be “digital art”. I got something I really liked:

“A spirit in a waterfall of hearts, digital art”

Summer Solstice Fern Flower

Speaking about spirits in nature, I wanted to generate something for the Summer Solstice. In Slavic and Baltic folklore, that night a Fern Flower blossoms. This Polish version on the Fern Flower is one of the first stories and remember. It is about curiosity, the quest for power, and misery. Maybe because it was the first, or more likely — as it resonated as much.

“Female spirits dancing around the fern flower, digital art” (first, second, third), “Female silhouettes dancing around the fern flower, digital art” (and that), “Female silhouettes dancing around the fern flower in a sauna, religious art”, “ Female silhouettes dancing around the fern flower, joyful psychedelic art”, “Female silhouettes dancing around the fern flower, colorful symbolic religious art” (x2), “Beautiful naturist female silhouettes dancing around summer solstice bonfire with a fern flower above, colorful watercolor painting” (and that)

A few extra

Here is Cthulhu’s romantic side, a concept of a qubit, and once again venus flytrap, this time — a photorealistic one. Believe me or not, this plant is my “spirit ‘animal’”.

Notes

It is up to you if decide if DALL·E 2 creates images of any value — artistic, creative, or maybe with its superior knowledge it actually knows things beyond?

What’s next?

Peter Weyland's TED Talk in 2023 is fictional, created in 2012. But unlike most sci-fi movies, gets uncanny with a quotation:

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Piotr Migdał

Piotr Migdał

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PhD in quantum physics, deep learning & data viz specialist. Founder at Quantum Flytrap. https://p.migdal.pl/ / https://quantumflytrap.com/