I’ve used neural networks to generate Halloween costumes in the past, but the early ones struggled with their complete lack of context for the training data. Why is Statue of Liberty a plausible costume yet Statue of Pizza isn’t? Those neural networks, which had to learn to spell English from scratch from a crowdsourced list of example costumes, had no way of knowing.
In 2019 I used GPT-2, a larger neural network pre-trained on a bunch of internet text, and then finetuned it on the same list of example costumes. It was able to make connections from other data it had seen online and come up with costumes that were plausible (incognito llama, gothy giraffe, space squirrel) and not-so-plausible (Batman on egg, penguin as a newt, pajamas made of wood and spiders).
Now in 2020 I have access to GPT-3, which was trained on an even larger set of internet data than GPT-2. It’s too large for me to finetune with costume data any more, but if I give it the opening of an article about popular 2020 costumes, it’ll write a fairly boring imitation of dozens of articles it saw online (apparently the most popular costumes of 2020 will be “Scary Scream Mask”, “Poison Ivy Dress”, or “Power Armor Costume 7”). To get something unusual, something that's more obviously the work of AI, I had to set the scene by starting it off with an article opening it could never have seen in its October 2019 training data:
With that as the prompt, the neural network had to write the rest of the text, which it now knew was probably going to contain a list of costumes. Here are some of my favorites:
Or this set. Higher effort, higher payoff.
I know neural networks don’t actually understand humans, but it’s responses like these that make it seem like they understand us all too well.
When I was trying out costume-generating prompts, I did come across one that produced some pretty fun results: “Great dinosaur-themed costume ideas for 2020”. Yes, I guess “Blue-footed Booby” is technically a dinosaur, but I’m not so sure about “Sheep in the Moon” or “a potato in a pot on top of a stove that comes alive.” To read the list of 40 costumes, become a supporter of AI Weirdness!
My book on AI, You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence Works and Why it’s Making the World a Weirder Place, is available wherever books are sold: Amazon - Barnes & Noble - Indiebound - Tattered Cover - Powell’s - Boulder Bookstore