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Face in a Cloud: How ideologues are like Google’s Deep Dream neural networks

Ok, that's definitely a little weird.
Ok, there’s definitely something a little odd about this cat.

Technology is weird. In their attempts to build neural network software that can process images and recognize objects in them, Google’s neural network researchers have created software that hallucinates, transforming mundane photographs of things like people and pets into bizarre fever dreams filled with strange mutant dog creatures and, for some reason, an excess of eyes.

Here’s one “before” pic of an ordinary kid:

kid2

And here’s what Google’s Deep Dream software turned it into:

kid1

So what on earth is going on here? Well, Google “trains” the neural networks by feeding it countless pictures of assorted animals, plants, buildings, faces, you name it, priming the software to spot anything that looks like, say, an eye or a dog or a bear.

To get the software to start “dreaming,” as I understand it, the researchers program it to enhance the patterns it thinks it sees in the images they upload. Then they run the enhanced picture back through the software, eventually ending up with weird and fantastic pics in which, as in the picture above, a blurry bit in the background has been transformed into a tiny staring bear.

Now they’ve set it up so you can upload your own pictures to see what the software will make of it. I haven’t tried it myself with any of my pics, but here are some of the weird hallucinations it’s generated based on the photos other people have uploaded.

A nebula becomes … a space dog with three noses and seven legs?

nebula

A nice doggy chewing on a toy grows a bunch of extra eyes as his toy turns into a multi-legged bird

doghead

Another nice doggy:

nicedog

A nice kitty, sporting an eyeball on its nose, with a bit of snow in the background becoming a tiny six legged wolf?

kittyinsnow

This started out as a picture of two women watching a fire.

fire

 

As you can see, Deep Dream has a bit of a dog obsession. Indeed, here it turns a pic of this cat sleeping …

cat

… into a pair of multi-headed, multi-legged dog creatures.

dogs

You can find an ever-growing assortment of other Deep Dream pics here, though the site is now getting spammed with NSFW images. If you need a more detailed explanation, with more examples, Gizmodo has one here. And for some especially freaky pics, see here. To easily make your own, check out the Dreamscope app.

So what does any of this have to do with ideologues? Well, like Google’s neural network, we human beings are designed by evolution to find patterns in everything we see and hear; this ability enables us to quickly and efficiently make sense of the world around us. But it can also lead us to find patterns that aren’t there — the proverbial faces we see in the clouds, for example.

Deep Dream shows us what can happen when pattern recognition gets the best of us — like the software, we can conjure elaborate visions out of pretty much nothing at all. That’s how conspiracy theorists look at the world, finding “evidence” of elaborate conspiracies pretty much everywhere they look.

If you want to see just how weird this can get, look at some of the countless YouTube videos that present video glitches in news footage as “evidence” that news anchors and politicians are routinely “shape-shifting” into reptiles live on air, for what supposed reason I couldn’t tell you.

As anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time is well aware, this kind of “pattern recognition gone berserk” is common amongst the people I write about, from Men’s Rights activists imagining vast feminist “multibillion$$” conspiracies against men to the far-right GamerGaters and white supremacists who’ve managed to convince themselves that a Nickelodeon sitcom about a cheerleader-turned-quarterback is really a perverse “Cultural Marxist” attempt to sell “racial cuckoldry” to children.

Then again, I’m not sure any of these ideologues will ever be able to come up with anything quite so bizarre as the following clip, which is what happens when you run the film clip of an already hallucinatory film — Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — through Google’s Deep Dream.

Warning: After watching this you may not be able to sleep for a week.

And here for the hell of it is the Audio Bullys’ song Face in a Cloud, featuring extended samples of Joe Cocker’s “Marjorine.”

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Falconer
Falconer
6 years ago

Ok, so, like, what if these pictures reveal what is really going on in the world but that we can’t see. Like, every cat is actually a five-headed, nineteen-legged dog, and there are little cities in the walls.

I hope not, because one of the fan blades in that first pic up there looks like an insect.

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

This is really awesome. Holy shit. I need these as prints for my room, man. It’s just so surreal and beautiful.

I wonder if they’ll try doing AUDIO hallucinations next?

A.A. Wils
6 years ago

Beautiful*, in a very Lovecraftian sort of way.

*And by beautiful, I mean weird and kind of creepy.

shsjohnv
6 years ago

So, this is how stoners see the world.

BRB, need LSD now.

Lordcrowstaff
Lordcrowstaff
6 years ago

In Soviet Google, image looks at YOU

scalyllama
6 years ago

Strange that it’s obsessed with dogs when the internet is actually more of a cat pic clearing house.

Alpha von Carousel
Alpha von Carousel
6 years ago

Yeah, they really overtrained on dog breeds. To paraphrase one of the oldest CS adages: dogs in, dogs out.

Auntie Alias
Auntie Alias
6 years ago

Very creepy with all the eyes and faces.

@Scented Fucking Hard Chairs

It accepted a JPG from me. Then it gave me a message, “Computer is now dreaming.
It make take long time to wake up. Maybe few days. You can visit this page later.”

Ellesar
Ellesar
6 years ago

I have never seen this and I love dogs, so – love the film clip – hilarious.

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
6 years ago

@Auntie Alias

Ah, they’ve fixed it, awesome! Thanks. =)

katz
katz
6 years ago

I wonder if they’ll try doing AUDIO hallucinations next?

Oh God no. Random noise becomes voices sending you messages.

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
6 years ago

Right, I’ve uploaded GLaDOS (of course), a montage of Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark sketches, The Great Red Dragon by William Blake and two photos of Angkor Wat. This’ll be fun.

Paradoxical Intention
6 years ago

Pandapool — The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me “Banana”, “Jackie” or whatever) | July 7, 2015 at 2:43 pm
I wonder if they’ll try doing AUDIO hallucinations next?

Well, they have made music for your cat.

(I should warn you though, the article has a sample of the music that autoplays very loud.)

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

@Paradoxical

Sweeeeeet. That’s actually not bad sounding. (Of course, I was listening to it with one ear while trying to find some folk metal shit so, yeah, lol.)

I’ll have to try it out with my cousin’s cat. >o3o<

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
6 years ago

… Why are so many people uploading porn. I just saw a man with eyes for nipples, a bear for a dick and a dog for a nutsack. Eugh. x_x

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

@SFHC

Woooo! Bears! Gotta love bears!

anemonerosie
6 years ago

I have a bit of a deep fascination with conspiracy theory. I can tell you why they’re obsessed with the news anchors turning into reptiles, if you like. I find it about as fascinating as the new misogyny.

epitome of incomprehensibility

Oooh. I’ll have nightmares, but they’ll be interesting nightmares! It reminds me a bit of Cyriak on YouTube (for some reason I find the Cows Cows Cows video very amusing).

kupo
kupo
6 years ago

So if this is what it’s like in the mind of an MRA, and they think we’re all bitches (aka female dogs)…holy shit, no wonder they’re afraid of us!

Auntie Alias
Auntie Alias
6 years ago

@Scented Fucking Hard Chairs

You’re welcome. 🙂 My pic still hasn’t been processed.

leftwingfox
6 years ago

I wonder if they’ll try doing AUDIO hallucinations next?

DoYouWANtToBUilDAsnOWMaN?

https://soundcloud.com/nipahdubs/do-you-want-to-build-a-snowman

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

@leftwingfox

It made my dog start barking. XD But it’s really awesome. It would probably be better with headphones. o3o

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
6 years ago

Huh, spotted this one on the site and it’s actually pretty cool:

http://i.imgur.com/WkHuXID.jpg

Someone uploaded a picture of some wattle branches and instead of adding ten dogs and a thousand eyes, it added parrots. That… Shows a creepy level of understanding. o~O

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
6 years ago

D’oh.

http://i.imgur.com/WkHuXID.jpg

Apparently you can’t add links to images without breaking the image.

Bina
6 years ago

When I was young, my room still had baby wallpaper full of twittering birds, rainbows, and happy suns with little thin rays . If I stared at it for a while, everything would start moving; the sun rays would go in and out, the birds would flap their wings, and faces would change around.

Is this what they really mean by “being high on life?”

Must be!

My folks had a rather choppy watercolor of a beaver lodge, and I used to swear up and down that I could see the river behind it flowing, with rapids and everything. Nobody else could. I was maybe 6 or 7 years old when I noticed this effect. I saw pictures “moving” all the time.

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