The DIY art world hasn't been the same since the passing of Bob Ross (rest in peace in a forest of happy little trees, king), but AI art creation tool Dall-E at least offers an entertaining and quicker way to generate masterpieces that seem appropriate for the bizarro timeline we all now share.
AI researcher Janelle Shane has made a hobby of prompting machine learning systems to engage in the 2022 equivalent of some very weird improv comedy. Her interactions with AI prompt plenty of hilarity -- including a charming set of Valentine's Day cards that almost work. Her latest bit is simply asking Dall-E to paint a picture of the most popular Halloween candies in each US state.
The results are filled with lots of odd gibberish and overflowing with candy corn like any child's basket on Nov. 1 when all the good stuff from the previous night's haul has already been devoured.
The first thing that becomes clear as Shane starts to work her way through all 50 states alphabetically is that Dall-E associates Halloween treats very strongly with candy corn, which is pretty fair given its abundance this time of year. But there is absolutely no way the played-out confection is the most popular candy anywhere.
To keep from being buried under a mountain of neural net candy corn, Shane had to mix up the phrasing of the prompts. She tried moving the name of the state to the front of the sentence or asking for product photos of candy bars or bags of candy.
Dall-E responded by generating slightly deranged treats like North Carolina's beloved "Night Part," New Jersey classic "Naw Way," a tasty "FrowBow" bar from Massachusetts and Wyoming's favorite candy bar, "Wyoomn."
I can't even read the name of what came back as most popular in Oklahoma, but I can tell you that it involves candy corn remarkably (or disgustingly) elongated and twisted into some sort of licorice-like ropes.
Felines might be overrepresented in Dall-E's training data if the favorite candy of Kansas, the less-than-appetizing "Farte Cats," is any indication. There's also Vermont's "Catoweny," which still appears to be candy corn in a bag or maybe compressed into bar form.
It's not exactly clear what there is to be learned from this exercise, other than AI seems to think humanity's over-supply of candy corn means it must be popular. The reality, of course, is just that we needed some way to store our excess of corn syrup for the winter months.
But there's a very real danger that AI may one day take over and flood the world with even more of this subpar sweet and assume it's doing us a favor.
Unfortunately, Dall-E doesn't present us with many other classy confections to choose from should we find ourselves trapped at an AI-generated Halloween party in the metaverse somewhere, especially if that party is in Connecticut, where a candy bar called "Craney Chowder" reigns supreme. Thanks, but I'd rather be gagged with a bag of those foamy circus peanuts instead.