Understanding / Doing Some AI

First chance I get. After all, I am known for exploiting OER for personal financial gain (that is sarcasm in case it is not obvious).

However, I did get Top Hat try to convince me to give them our corpus to give a kickback to my university. So there are many for-profit enterprises interested in taking advantage of OER efforts.

I found a cache of media-based “ai” experiments (I am following the lead of @poritzj of lowercasing/quoting of the two letters as a signal of questioning).

This was one of those sideways link click adventures, that despite how down on the edtech world people are getting, I still find by gems of web serendipity. So, I moderate the DS106 Daily Create, which has been publishing each day since 2012 a small creative challenge.

That’s not relevant, but one submission by a great participant we call @dogtrax (Kevin, a 6th grade teacher and musician) included a link to explore an audio generating “ai” experiment called the Infinite Drum Machine.

I admit I had a hard time figuring this out, at least until I followed the link to the GitHub code:

Thousands of everyday sounds, organized using machine learning.

Sounds are complex and vary widely. This experiment uses machine learning to organize thousands of everyday sounds. The computer wasn’t given any descriptions or tags – only the audio. Using a technique called t-SNE, the computer placed similar sounds closer together. You can use the map to explore neighborhoods of similar sounds and even make beats using the drum sequencer.

Now I am diving down Wikipedia holes trying to understand t-distributed stochastic neighbor embedding which is a bit over my coding pay grade. But its a method used here to let the mythical “ai” beast associate every day sounds.

these become instruments on a 4 track player where you can set beats for each. I’m not very skilled at that part (and you cannot even save the sounds), but this seems a bit different than spitting out computer generated graphics or word salading from input text.

I made a short screen recording (sloppy as my laptop fan is cooking there).

But the real find is this is part of a sprawling collection of Google “ai” Experiments

I can make here a Teachable Machine?

Teachable Machine is a web tool that makes it fast and easy to create machine learning models for your projects, no coding required. Train a computer to recognize your images, sounds, & poses, then export your model for your sites, apps, and more.

That’s is for another day. But these are the kinds of things I want to explore, just to see by manipulating various “ai” bits.

So now Cosmo is on the bandwagon

Isn’t this making more of a case for A than the I? And the tweet I found it wrapped in says more:

What exactly is the intelligence we are suppose to be enthralled with? From Merriam-Webster 1a

the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations : reason also : the skilled use of reason. (2) : the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (such as tests)

and 3

: the act of understanding : COMPREHENSION

Does an algorithm spitting out images show comprehension? Where is the dealing with new situations.

No, it is part 4 of the definition that goes with “ai”:

the ability to perform computer functions

Some more questioning here, what is the intelligence demonstrated?

If we do not question and just shruggingly accept this as “intelligence” or some kind of futuristic magic teaching tool, what does it say about us? This is why I want to understand it more tactfully.

Yesterday I shared one of my favorite flickr tricks, how to get a flickr photo page URL just from a downloaded file name.

There is a reason.

Here is one of those now all the places DALLE-mini image generators - Craiyon (clever? did an AI make up this name?) which offers “AI model drawing images from any prompt!”

Code is available for a whole bunch of things I want to look into (and do not understand now) about building one’s own. It looks like the model? or maybe the engine? is running on Hugging Face

This led me to look at their “training images” (you can only see 100 rows, so there’s probably more) - they are all from flickr:


Here it is, I can now pry at some of the images used for training this machine (I still have no clue how the training happens).

Look, it’s the 4th image in that list.

I suspect though it’s more than the image that’s the training, because in the exif column comes all of the photo metadata. But I also know from my own use of the flickr API that you can also extract the photo title and caption.

But going back to that photo, it’s file name is on the end of the URL or


which means the flickr ID 15335861457 can be used to find the original flickr page this image was taken…er borrowed from


and voila, it is Downtown Detroit flickr photo by danxoneil shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

I may not be understanding image generating AI but I am popping the hood of the car and poking around the motor.

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This is very uplifting use of facial recognition AI that no one should find a problem with.

We even learn that Rush musician Geddy Lee has been able to confirm identification of his family members (his mother is an Auschwitz survivor).

But here is the part I do not get. The interviewer asks:

We’re not all software engineers here, but can you tell us a little bit about how the software works?

Exactly! I want to hear, in plain english what AI software, algorithms do to recognize faces.

And the engineer’s response?

The software leverages AI [artificial intelligence] to help Holocaust descendants discover images of their loved ones, and identify the millions of unidentified faces in Holocaust photo and video archives.

We proactively look to identify faces using AI, and also provide a way for people to conduct their own research as well through the numberstonames.org website.

“We just wave the AI wand it it identifies faces” ???

This is what I object too- there is just this gushing over the results and we are given no understanding what goes on inside the magic AI box.

At least this is a little better

And how, exactly, is AI able to recognize faces? Well, each person’s face is broken up into numerous data points; these can be the distance between the eyes, the height of the cheekbones, the distance between the eyes and the mouth, and so on. AI facial recognition searches on those data points and tries to account for variations (for instance, distance from the camera and slight variations in the angle of the face).

However, even well-trained AI facial recognition systems don’t have real-world context and can be fooled. If you see a colleague who is wearing a face mask, sunglasses, and a baseball cap, you may still recognize them. An AI system, however, might not. It depends on level of training the neural network. Even though AI facial recognition systems are more superficially accurate, it is also easier for them to blunder under less-than-ideal conditions.

And the recommended video has experts talking about how facial recognition works, but we never see anything.

That is not how I see an explanation working for me. These are Tellplanations.

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Sudowrite is pretty widely used and written about–I wonder if that would lead to better results.

Cool! I love that you can track their data–I think Hugging Face intentionally releases this in contrast to other corporate models, right? I have been trying out the same dalle mini a bit and got a neat image for ambiguity. But I’m not sure about including these images in my OER textbook–are they public domain? Creative Commons argued something to that effect.

That is an interesting question as I have yet to see any AI images explicitly licensed. Who would you give credit?

Then I wonder about the ruling that a monkey could not claim ownership of ir’s own selfies

The Wikimedia Foundation’s 2014 refusal to remove the pictures from its Wikimedia Commons image library was based on the understanding that copyright is held by the creator, that a non-human creator (not being a legal person) cannot hold copyright, and that the images are thus in the public domain.

In December 2014, the United States Copyright Office stated that works created by a non-human, such as a photograph taken by a monkey, are not copyrightable

So until the claims of sentience can be established (likely not) would not images generated by AI be considered the same as ones made by a monkey?

Fun stuff

This might end up being more a stream of finding-ness act, that maybe an algorithm can do better than me? My favorite discoveries come from places maybe I was not looking at them.

Like email.

I subscribe to Seb Chan’s Fresh and New newsletter - Seb is a powerful innovator in the museum / museum tech space, and I was fortunate to spend a little bit of time with he and his ACMI team n 2018.

Anyhow, his current Fresh and New Generative things and choosing the right words included some examples and probing thoughts on the AI image generating fad. And I really like his description of all these DALL-E sets as “promptism”

My social media feeds overflowed with DALL-E and Midjourney ‘promptism’ visuals. The coining of ‘promptism’ by others nicely deflects attention from the underlying technologies to the craft of finding the right language (the prompt) to ‘talk to the machine’. Its a bit like those people who seem to have a magical ability to craft ‘the perfect Google search query’ but aren’t trained librarians and have really just have done a bit of SEO work in their past.

More than that, and why I respect Seb, is not just talking about AI but experimenting, and developed an image generator based on metadata from his museum’s collection.

You can find examples of what their AI generated:

I have to say it is somewhat interesting that it came up with anything close to the prompt, but ???

I also gleaned from here a very good explainer video on how this generating images from text was started (32 pixel green school buses!)

An in the “to dabbe and learn more department” would be sinking my curiosity unto the Jupyter Notebooks on Google Colab (example).

Yikes, here it is the mid-point of July, meaning the mid-point of whatever season you are in, and I’ve not really progressed too much on actual AI tinkering. Just keep tracking curious, interesting stuff others are doing.

But hey, no one is grading here (and also, no one really joined in to the idea of the open pedagogy adventuring).

I thank my colleague and better long time friend Bryan Alexander for sharing the item below. For someone as prolific as he is blogging and in social media, he often sends me interesting stuff as a personal email. Just to let anyone know that a good friend is better than any algorithm.

Bryan shared author Janelle Shane’s post on “The Kitten Effect”

Janelle describes and shows examples that as realistic as the Dall-E 2 can be for generating images of single kittens (and dogs) (and candy), when you ask it to do larger numbers of them, or even smaller sized images, he quality really breaks down.

I don’t know for sure what to make of this, but it’s interesting.

The Llama Effect?

Can I replicate this? Does the Kitten Effect apply to llamas? I choose because where I lived 2 years ago, we could walk up the lane and see 1-3 of them stare at us from behind a fence:


2018/365/250 Such a Chatty Llama flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

So I head to craiyon and try something with visuals to bite off on:

a llama staring from a fenced in field atop a hill under an orange sky

It’s okay, and somewhat recognizable as a llama, the scale in some is off, and few get the fence. But not bad, AI.

Now I try:

Twenty llamas racing up a grassy hill in a fenced-in field under an orange sky

indeed none of results give me 20 and the images are definitely poor. Voial The Kitten Effect Applies to Llamas!

Get Some AI Weirdness!

And I find it hard to resist a site and a book about AI Weirdness:

AI is everywhere. It powers the autocorrect function of your iPhone, helps Google Translate understand the complexity of language, and interprets your behavior to decide which of your friends’ Facebook posts you most want to see. In the coming years, it’ll perform medical diagnoses and drive your car–and maybe even help our authors write the first lines of their novels. But how does it actually work?

Janelle Shane, a scientist and engineer, has written for the New York Times, Slate, and the New Yorker. Through her hilarious experiments, real-world examples, and illuminating cartoons, she explains how AI understands our world, and what it gets wrong. More than just a working knowledge of AI, she hands readers the tools to be skeptical about claims of a smarter future.

A comprehensive study of the cutting-edge technology that will soon power our world, YOU LOOK LIKE A THING AND I LOVE YOU is an accessible, hilarious exploration of the future of technology and society. It’s ASTROPHYSICS FOR PEOPLE IN A HURRY meets THING EXPLAINER: An approachable guide to a fascinating scientific topic, presented with clarity, levity, and brevity by an expert in the field with a powerful and growing platform.

I admit my ambitions here have exceeded my capacity/time to dive much into AI, but I am still tracking things, filing away in my own cortext for where maybe they might seed future associative trails.

Here, from one of my favorite writers, Clive Thompson is the idea of “Moravec’s Paradox”

Hans Moravec is a computer scientist and roboticist who, back in the 80s, noticed something interesting about the development of artificial intelligence and robotics. Back then, the creators of AI were having some reasonable success getting computers to do “mental” work, like playing chess or checkers. But they frequently had a rough time getting robots to do physical tasks that required even the slightest bit of delicacy.

It was kind of the opposite of what many futurists and AI thinkers had long assumed about AI and robotics. They’d figured the hard stuff would be getting computers to do cerebral work — and the easy stuff would be navigating the world and manipulating objects. After all, think about a three year old kid: They can easily navigate a cluttered room and pick up a paperback, right? But they sure can’t play chess. So chess must be “hard”, and picking up a paperback “easy”.

Except in the real world of robotics and AI, inventors were discovering exactly the opposite. So Moravec realized we had a paradox of inverted expectations. Computer scientists were failing to understand what was actually hard and what was actually easy.

See also the Wikipedia article

So the things being marveled about AI are its ability to do things that are actually not complex. As Thompson notes, chess is complex, with more potential moves than there are atoms in the universe (the Shannon number), but:

But in another important way, chess is really simple. It has only a few rules, and these rules operate in a completely closed system. Chess doesn’t even require any memory: Each time you look at the board, you don’t have to assess what happened in the past — you just plan for the future.

Thompson’s Phrasing of Moravec’s Paradox

This is why I enjoy this writer!

What I love about Moravec’s Paradox is that you can apply it — a kind of metaphoric version of it, anyway — outside of the sphere of AI and robotics.

To wit: In many situations in life, we often mistake the hard stuff for the easy stuff, and the easy stuff for the hard stuff.

That gives me much to ponder. You?

I came across a new AI thing to tinker with via PetaPixel

This tool supposedly can improve the quality of old photos. I gave it a try with my own family photos and riffed a bit on the allure of these acts of “promptism”

Now it’s on me to try to go a bit deeper and read the research paper behind GFG-GAN “Towards Real-World Blind Face Restoration with Generative Facial Prior

Blind face restoration usually relies on facial priors, such as facial geometry prior or reference prior, to restore realistic and faithful details. However, very low-quality inputs cannot offer accurate geometric prior while highquality references are inaccessible, limiting the applicability in real-world scenarios. In this work, we propose GFP-GAN that leverages rich and diverse priors encapsulated in a pretrained face GAN for blind face restoration. This Generative Facial Prior (GFP) is incorporated into the face restoration process via spatial feature transform layers, which allow our method to achieve a good balance of realness and fidelity. Thanks to the powerful generative facial prior and delicate designs, our GFP-GAN could jointly restore facial details and enhance colors with just a single forward pass, while GAN inversion methods require image-specific optimization at inference. Extensive experiments show that our method achieves superior performance to prior art on both synthetic and real-world datasets.

I’m glad a few people still read blogs and leave comments, hence I found out from a colleague Brian Bennett this story-- here the DALL-E mini generators do work well making abstract images to accompany blog posts about highly technical topics

Might stock image sites be trembling? Regardless, the article does include some good suggestions for prompts that I may have to take for a spin.

Just to show I can improve my own promptism, I again tried one. Seeing our cat sprawled out in front of a deck of cards, I took 2 Kings out as a set for an image I might call “Poker With Charlie”:

Can AI do this? I try Black and white cat laying in front of a deck of cards with 2 kings showing with dismal results. Most of the cats are distorted and not nearly as cute as Charlie, and the cards look like gibberish.

My prompts need tuning, right?

More in the "My AI Prompts Are Not as Good as Yours Department… I got an email update for a new post at AI Weirdness

This was hard to resist as I have been a life-long fan of cereal, something which I can still use for any meal. I went to craiyon and tried a variant of the prompt the author used, mine was:

A box of apple jacks on a grocery store shelf

But all I got was mostly pictures of apples on a shelf, not my classic cereal, I was 0 for 9 in getting a box of cereal

Maybe I need more specificity, so I added to my prompt…

A box of apple jacks cereal on a grocery store shelf

And at least now I get blurry boxes of cereal, not the crisp boxes like the author shared.

Call me unimpressed, or maybe I should be impressed that it generated at least something I can recognized as a grocery store shelf with colors akin to Apple Jacks (well it ought to me mostly green, not reds).

Even more specificity “One single box of apple jacks cereal on a grocery store shelf” did not help, I will spare another upload, but I only got a closer up view of cereal and 2 blurred shelfs full of boxes.

I would guess that the author of an AI book has access to a better tool than the public, she mentions using DALL-E 2 which I went and signed up for the wait list (again, I did sign up in April).

While I wait my 2 minutes while craiyon chews on my prompt “A long queue of people waiting to get inside the AI palace” I anticipate more palace than – well, actually this is maybe the best I have done!

It’s recognizable as people, though the faces are obscured or look like they are hooded… maybe it’s respecting privacy?

After seeing more AI promptist imagery by colleagues in Instagram and elsewhere, my realization is that judging capability as I have done based on the DALL-E mini powered craiyon is limited- more stunning images are posted using DALL•E 2 and Midjourney.

It’s fast moving, and I’m not sure I need to be trying to catch up (I applied for DALL•E 2 in April, still wait-listed).

Midjourney is interesting in that you interact via the software in the social media discord space (How to Geek as a good intro). Also for noting here, The Register’s interview with founder David Holz indicates the latest version does build upon feedback from this community, which is not built into the other apps were we individually toss prompts into a box.

The social aspect of Midjourney recently began enhancing image quality. Holz said company engineers recently introduced version three of its software, which for the first time incorporated a feedback loop based on user activity and response.

“If you look at the v3 stuff, there’s this huge improvement,” he said. “It’s mind-bogglingly better and we didn’t actually put any more art into it. We just took the data about what images the users liked, and how they were using it. And that actually made it better.”

Also of interest, curiosity-- Prompt Press that seems the generate stories that look like news using AI for imagery and text based on current headlines (?).

Speaking of fast moving, or just moving, gaze over the generated images of animals done in various painting styles to what might happen as video is generated by AI via something called CogVideo (no relation!). I gave it a weak try through an interface provided at Hugging Face that “only supports the first stage of the CogVideo pipeline due to hardware limitations”.

I attempted using a seed image of my dog Felix rolling around on the grass and the prompt “A dog rolls joyfully in the grass” which apparently needs to be translated into Chinese


?? I am not sure what to make of the results (crappy video in the tweet).

Designboom had examples of transforming classic art into different styles and even doing things like a makeover of the Mona Lisa to have her sport a mohawk hair style.

This hopefully makes one start to wonder/worry about the copyright/reuse implications here. I lost track of a really good article that dug into this, but it bends a lot of the questions of originality and remix, plus even more about the implications of the rights for the images that AI gets trained on.

And it’s going to stretch some legal precedents by pushing what non-human authorship (the usually grounds for rejecting copyright claims).

The question is what will we do, hopefully for good (?) with this capability? I am a bit weary of the shared “look what I made” (by typing into a box!). Back to the interview with Midjourney’s David Holz – it’s not art (is it creative?)

“The majority of people are just having fun,” said Holz. “I think that’s the biggest thing because it’s not actually about art, it’s about imagination.”


Holz said a lot of graphic artists use Midjourney as part of their concept development workflow. They generate a few variations on an idea and present it to clients to see which direction they should pursue.

“The professionals are using it to supercharge their creative or communication process,” Holz explained. “And then a lot of people were just playing with it.”


But he’s more open to Midjourney as a source of commercial illustration, noting that The Economist ran a Midjourney graphic on its cover in June.

I am only here tracking some notes and trying to make my own sense of what this AI frenzy (or is it just a flash in the pan?) is going.

Cleaning out my fleet of open browser tabs, I found the reference I wanted to post on the issues of copyright and AI – it was a twitter thread (which is poor place IMHO to publish stuff, it just runs over the edge of now and disappears)

This might be one of the most useful twitter threads I’ve seen in a while, plucking the relevant ones-- what happens when because of it’s “training” material that AI can generate imagery that closely approximates copyrighted works?

Then the question of it being legal for AI training data to include copyrighted works (the author says “yes”).

This thread goes deep and is absolutely worth digging into.

Buried in there is an amazing set of AI tools and resources, much of it technical, but scroll to the bottom for “Cool Apps - No Code AI Art tools” e.g. stuff to play with

I’m in the DALL•E club, my invite came through. What shall I do with my 50 credits? For a first jaunt, I used the same llama in a field prompt I tried earlier with craiyon, just adding to the end a reference to photographic style.

A llama staring from a fenced-in field atop a hill under an orange sky done in photographic style

The images generated are much more realistic in rendering and composition than the previous attempt. Fences are more detailed, and the skies are more interesting than just “orange”

The 3rd and fourth ones are similar in composition to the many I took photographs of when we lived near some real ones.

All very interesting, but to come back away from the “wow” (if that) is what can we do with this capability? Or what do we forecast as it gets even better? Might it generate something indistinguishable from a photo?

Lesson learned- leave the craiyon behind.

I tried to make a case or a speculation about the value of creation by tossing prompts, and here I am, like others engaged in promptism.

Okay, I am working on a new blog series for OEGlobal, where I hope to virtually travel to our members web sites and look for some interesting open education bits to share. I thought about the metaphor of traveling with a suitcase, and since I always use a dog avatar, I prompted to DALL•E

An abstract surrealistic painting of a dog sitting next to a suitcase on a wharf next to a steamship

I did ask for surrealistic, but wow, these are images I could not easily make, nor likely find.

Image generated with DALL•E but license options seem elusive! Who owns it? Who can assign a license?

UPDATE: Just looking in the Creative Commons Slack found that @vahidm shared this important news

So if in AI image cannot be copyrighted, again how do I attribute it? Can I license it?

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