Inspired by recently released images of the universe by NASA, the first wave I feed it In the Research Laboratory’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) instrument the Midjourney was a “spaceship surrounded by galaxies”. The result, shown below, was an image of a ship suspended in space that seemed to reflect the universe around it – and that’s largely true of the motive.
For Midjourney founder David Holz, one of the strong aspects of generative AI is its “ability to unify with language,” as we can “use language as a tool to create things.” In simple terms, synthetic AI uses commands from the user to create new images based on the set of data it has learned from different sources over time.
The emergence of text-to-image generation raised philosophical questions about the definition of “artist”.
British mathematician Marcus de Sautoy argues in his book The Creativity Code (Art and Innovation in the Age of AI), 2019, “Art is ultimately an expression of human free will and until computers get their own version of this, art has been Created by a computer will always be traceable to the human desire for creativity.” He states that if we were to create a “mind” in a machine, he would probably provide a glimpse into his ideas. “But we are still a long way from creating conscious code,” de Sautoy concludes.
Similarly, Holz notes, “It is important that we do not think of this as an ‘artist’ of AI. We think it’s like using AI to augment our imaginations. It’s not necessarily about art but about imagination. We ask ‘what if’.” AI increases the power of our imaginations “.
Midjourney allows its users to feed their prompts to its Discord server and then generates four images similar to the text. The user can choose to explore more variations and upgrade the perfect fit for a high quality image. The bot went into open beta last month, giving users a certain number of free trials to bring their imaginations to life. Images created can also be minted in NFTs, which until recently Midjourney has been charging.
“It’s a gigantic community of nearly a million people, all making pictures together, dreaming and looking down on each other. All claims are public and everyone can see each other’s pictures… and that’s very unique,” says Holz. Indianexpress.com.
Holz co-founded Leap Motion, a user interface company for manual motion capture, in 2010, and it has appeared on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list of 2014. He now runs a small research and design lab, Midjourney, which explores a range of diverse projects, including a visualization tool Artificial Intelligence, with 10 other colleagues.
Detailing the response the AI robot received, Holz says, “Many people are very happy and find using a product a very emotional experience. People use it for everything from a project to art therapy. There are people who have always had things on their mind but couldn’t express before. Some people suffer from conditions like aphantasia, where the mind cannot imagine things, and they are now using a robot to imagine for the first time in their lives. There are so many beautiful things that are happening.”
The bot is also keen to prevent the platform from being misused to create offensive images. The Community Guidelines urge users to refrain from using claims that are “inherently disrespectful, offensive, or otherwise offensive” as well as creating “adult or bloody content”. Midjourney also uses moderators that alert and warn or ban people who are violating policies. It also has automatic content management where certain words are blocked on the server. Holes explains that AI also learns from user data. “If people don’t like something, it generates less of it.”
I came across the Midjourney bot during a peek through my Twitter feed, seeing renditions of psychedelic users from somewhat post-apocalyptic Delhi.
Having previously been involved with AI bots like Disco Diffusion and Craiyon, one of the interesting aspects of Midjourney’s discovery was looking at how different AI systems respond to the same scripts. The images below show results generated with the same message, ‘City during monsoon’, by Midjourney, Disco Diffusion, a free AI tool hosted by Midjourney. The Google Colab and Craiyon, formerly known as DALL-E mini.
While Craiyon casts relatively realistic portraits, Disco Diffusion shows surreal and Impressionist results, and Midjourney sits somewhat in the middle of the two.
According to Holz, Midjourney can be understood as “a playful and innovative sandbox.” “The goal is to give everyone access to this sandbox, so that everyone can understand what is possible and where we are as a civilization. What can we do? What does this mean for the future?”
Holz dismisses concerns that artificial intelligence is here to “replace” humans or their jobs. “When computer graphics were invented, there were similar questions — will this replace artists? It didn’t. If anything, computer graphics make artists more powerful,” he says.
Holz adds: “When we see something new, there is a temptation to try to figure out if it is dangerous and treat it like a tiger. Artificial intelligence is not a tiger. It is actually more like a big river of water. A tiger is dangerous in a completely different way than water. Water is something you can build a boat out of. Yes, and you can learn to swim, or you can build dams that generate electricity. He’s not trying to eat us, he’s not mad at us. He doesn’t have any emotion, or feelings, or thoughts. It’s just a mighty force. It’s an opportunity.”