These Foods Do Not Exist

Food for Thought

Computers have always been good at creating abstract images using randomness, but ironically, randomness has a predictable look. Even though they are theoretically unique, they all look like screensavers.

All possible permutations of 2,200 characters are predetermined, which means what I’m writing here has already been predicted. But the vast majority of them make no sense. They wouldn’t form any existing words, let alone coherent sentences. They are like screensavers, a matrix of random letters. The permutations that consist of real words and follow the rules of grammar are extremely rare, but those are what we would like to see.

Text-to-image AI, like DALL-E and MidJourney, can generate images that follow certain rules of our physical world. These objects could technically exist, but they don’t. These images of foods I created look completely foreign, but they still look like food.

Even though sci-fi movies like Star Wars do a decent job of imagining how everyday objects look on other planets, they are still too familiar. AI can now do a better job of imagining that world.

On MidJourney (where I created these images), you start with the command “/imagine” followed by a “prompt.” Just because you can juxtapose random words, like “squid ice cream,” doesn’t mean you can imagine how it looks. You can ask MidJourney to imagine it for you. AI now has a greater imagination than we do.

Soon enough, AI will have a greater capacity for creativity too. After all, creativity is about making unexpected connections to solve a particular problem. AI would have an advantage over us because it can draw from a much larger data set.

Imagination and creativity are sacred to us. If computers can have a greater capacity for them, what good are humans? It’s a scary thought, but perhaps it’s a good thing. AI will force us to come to terms with the fact that we strive in life for an illusory sacred cow. If you are conscious of it, you don’t believe it’s illusory. If you are not conscious of it, you mock others for believing in something illusory. Either way, AI will force us to move beyond both.