EDGE OF INNOVATION
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EDGE OF INNOVATION

56 Stunning AI-Generated Images Inspired By The Future of Being Human

I’ve spent the past few weeks playing around with the AI art bot Midjourney, and I must confess that I’ve been blown away by what it can produce.

I’ve also come to realize that, more than anything, these machine learning image creation platforms have an amazing ability to unleash human creativity — especially those of us whose technical skills lie far behind our imagination.

To explore this in some depth, I’ve been playing around with what is possible using a single prompt as a seed, followed by iterative recreation of curated images.

The results have been stunning.

The Prompt

The prompt I used was “Will we be able to design and create synthetic consciousness in the future?”

As obscure as this might seem, I wanted to generate imagery for a new initiative exploring the future of being human, and this was a sentence I somewhat randomly chose from the Arizona State University Future of Being Human website.

“Will we be able to design and create synthetic consciousness in the future?”

What I quickly began to realize is that the sophistication and quality of the images produced was very much a process of co-creation, with me prompting Midjourney and in turn being prompted and inspired by what was returned.

Variations on a Theme

What started out as a simple image generation exercise quickly became an exploration of the AI-human creative process, and how an initial idea can spawn multiple visions that in turn stimulate new ideas.

But rather than try and explain this in words, let me show you some of the images produced — 56 in all in this first phase of the exploration.

These were a result of repeated iterations of images generated from the initial seed phrase, with variations in algorithm parameters that impacted creativity and variation at various points.

The images have been loosely clustered into different groups depending on their aesthetic.

55 AI Generated Images on a Common Theme

Inside Out

MidJourney works by first returning four different interpretations of a prompt, leaving the human in the loop to select, develop, and iterate around which of the four images capture their imagination the most.

The following images emerged from one of those four initial interpretations, and they were the first to catch my eye.

Neuro Network

The second of those four initial Midjourney interpretations of the prompt that stood out was the bizarre vision below of something that looks like a futuristic neuron-like network of fibrils being cradled in a not-quite-human hand.

I was intrigued by where this series of images might go.

Distributed Mind

Still on a neurological theme, a seed image was generated by Midjourney that was quite different from others in its tonality and subject matter. I iterated around this while beginning to explore different aspect ratios.

Hidden World

One of the initial seed images from Midjourney was a depiction of an eye. I was intrigued by this, but didn’t like the original interpretation, and so kept feeding different generations of the image into the bot until something emerged that seemed to better-capture the prompt.

This led to two very different eye-based sequences of images. First we have what I’ve dubbed the “hidden world” images given the depth of imagery within the eye-like structure.

Deep Eye

The second set of eye-related images were superficially more naturalistic, but with startling embedded depth.

The final image in this sequence resulted from me pushing Midjourney to be more creative with this representation of the prompt. It’s right on the edge of where I wanted these images to go, but I thought I’d include it to show the evolution of the idea.

Neural Connections

While exploring results that captured various aspects of consciousness, this series of images emerged. The brain-like structure is prominent, as are the beyond-the brain neuron and synapse-like features.

I was also intrigued with the variations in detail that began appearing in these images.

Mindscape

Staying with the mind/brain theme, these two images grabbed my attention as they began to couple brain-like imagery with whole body imagery.

Thought Expressed

Continuing along these lines, Midjourney began to return quite stunning images capturing what might be interpreted as aspects of mind-body-consciousness (although the interpretation is all on my side here, not the AI’s).

These are the results of substantial curation and regeneration, with me pushing the bot to get increasingly creative around imagery that resonated with what I was looking for.

Expansion

I thought I’d include a couple of slightly more fun images to come out of pushing Midjourney to interpret the prompt in creative ways. These were generated for a poster to go above the office coffee machine!

Inner Evolution

The images below were also explicitly curated to be used in graphic design — in this case a backdrop for a free-standing banner . Again, all of these draw on the same initial seed prompt.

The image on the right was produced from the one on the left using a test algorithm on Midjourney that tends toward more abstract imagery with less granularity — perfect for graphic design purposes!

Revelation

The sequence of images below diverges markedly from the ones above, despite using the same seed prompt. It illustrates the diversity of expression and imagination that is possible with careful iteration and curation.

What I find especially interesting here is how the images catalyze creativity around the the initial prompt, and lead to an iterative exploration of deeply novel ideas.

Revealed Thought

And finally, a sequence of images that I thought provided a fascinating conceptualization of consciousness, and transitions/merging between human and artificially created consciousness.

I find these both inspiring and thought provoking.

Closing Thoughts

Based on my experiences so far, I’m not sure I’m worried about AI making human creativity and artistry redundant. After all, the value of art lies in how it is perceived and interpreted by people, and the meaning they extract from it. Art, to humans, will always have humans in the loop somewhere.

But this exercise has demonstrated how AI-generated images can be a powerful tool in both catalyzing creativity and in stimulating new ideas and insights.

I am by no stretch of the imagination an artist in any classical or trained sense. Yet working with Midjourney I’m finding that I can explore and express ideas and concepts in ways that would be impossible otherwise.

And through this partnership I can begin to connect those ideas and insights with others in creative ways, and in turn be iteratively inspired by the ideas and insights that result.

In other words, AI art bots like Midjourney and others seem to have the ability to unleash creativity rather than diminish it, and to open up the way to quite transformative AI-human collaborations.

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Andrew Maynard

Andrew Maynard

Scientist, futurist & Professor of Global Futures at ASU. Author of Future Rising and Films from the Future. Writing about tech, society, & the future