It’s time for the next edition of 5 Interesting Things. It’s a short round up of things I’ve found that are: potentially actionable, inspiring, thought-provoking.

AI Art – The AI here stands for artificial intelligence, and “AI art” means art created by computers. The image on this post is what an AI system came up with when I asked it, using just word prompts, to produce an image about androids dreaming of electric sheep. (Sci-fi readers will recognize this as riff on the title of a Philip K Dick novel.) Yes, you read that right. All I had to do is write what I wanted it to create, and it drew something for me.

Produced just a few weeks ago, my image is already “outdated” in terms of what AI systems can come up with. For example, someone came up with these fake Zelda posters, which supposedly showed stars like Tom Holland and Emma Watson in an upcoming Netflix series. I’ve seen Snoop Dogg rendered as Yoda (Facebook link), and knitted spiders (Facebook link) in realistic jungle scenes. The first link goes to a gallery of all sorts of images.

The implications here are pretty staggering. First, real vs fake is going to be even harder to discern. I’m in a bunch of AI art groups, and I saw when someone created a cat with snake skin. It appeared in someone’s Facebook feed just a few weeks later labelled as an exotic wild cat in Asia. Another creation, cartoon style cats rendered in a mosaic style, showed up later as a “fantastic new discovery” at Pompeii. (There are cats in ancient mosaics. But they’re definitely not in modern cartoons styles and colours.)

Second, this is going to make a total mess out of image copyrights. You can prompt the AI to do images in the style of hundreds of artists, many of them still alive and trying to earn money from their craft. Not only can the AI render hundreds of images in ‘the style of’ a living artist in a matter of minutes, but it will reduce the market for commissioned art.

On the positive side, it is unleashing a torrent of creativity, allowing mothers to create beautiful custom picture books for their children, game players to create things like decks of cards, and we may finally say goodbye to terrible stock photos, like the ridiculous “woman laughing alone with salad” or “scientist with science-y lab coat surrounded by beakers full of coloured liquid.” And for people like me, with zero talent for art and even less patience for learning it, I can finally translate what’s in my head onto a screen with reasonable accuracy in a fairly short amount of time.

Moving on now to…

Autobrewery Syndrome – The human body is hella weird. Apparently, there’s a rare syndrome wherein your own gut can ferment the carbohydrates you eat, giving you a tummy full of booze. All of the intoxication, none of the fun of a decent glass of Bordeaux.

Sewage Treatment Reimagined – Speaking of tummies, here’s how one group has been inspired by cow digestive systems to come up with a better sewage treatment system. Not a sexy topic, to be sure, but a critical one. With 8 billion of us and counting, not to mention all our livestock and pets, we need better, cleaner, more efficient poop management methods.

Sand Batteries – We’re finally decarbonizing and electrifying, but one of the technical hurdles on this journey is energy storage. Current battery tech has come a long way in the last ten years, but batteries are still heavy and not as energy dense as they could be. Community and house level storage systems are going to be critical. Enter this ‘sand battery’ which stores … heat!

Artificial Photosynthesis – Can you grow plants in complete darkness? As of now, the answer is yes. The technique outlined in the article has implications for indoor farming and energy conservation.

Tell me what you think of this month’s selections in the comments!

Image credit: Midjourney AI

One Comment

    • Jay

    • 2 years ago

    Chandra, your android sheepy AI art is pretty cool! (Also loved the rest of the blog content here too.)

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