Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) are just about the coolest things ever, sprouting at the intersection of neuroscience, evolutionary science, computer science, and the future. I’m certainly no computer science expert, but as a life-long fan of sci-fi, a student of evolutionary biology, and maybe just as someone who’s constantly in awe about the world around me, advances in artificial intelligence and ANN get me hyped beyond belief.
And while I get extremely excited about the idea that artificial neural networks have the potential to revolutionize computing and all of human existence, I also love the fact that they can be used to do silly, weird things along the way. Like programming a computer that teaches itself how to play Super Mario World, or generates beautiful, surreal, nightmare fuel images like this:
The image of my guitar (or what used to be my guitar, and is now mostly eyeballs) above is the result of being processed by Google’s “Deep Dream,” an artificial neural network trained to find and enhance patterns in images.
The acid-trippy weirdness is the result of the neural network essentially mirroring a phenomenon that happens in our own brains: pareidolia – that is, perceiving visual patterns where none actually exist. You know how we see bunnies in the clouds, or faces in woodgrain? Well, Deep Dream sees eyeballs and dog-snails in literally everything. You could run through an image of random noise, and it would interpolate patterns and enhance them until there is something remotely recognizable. When left to it’s own imagination and several recursive iterations, it can create some absolutely mesmerizing artwork, falling somewhere between Alex Grey and David Cronenberg.
Images via Google
The best thing about Deep Dream is that Google has released the code out into the wild for all the programmers and weird art enthusiast to enjoy. And of course, many a good folk have already already built out web app versions for you to create your own surreal works of neural network art.