AI Weirdness: the strange side of machine learning
Cartoons of socks: One has violins and prawns, another has robots posing with butter

Novelty Socks by AI

I like a fun sock. The more random the design, the better. What kinds of novelty sock ideas would we get if we used AI as a creativity aid?

It turns out they aren't too novel unless the AI is glitchy.

I collected 14 examples of socks I liked, wrote up short descriptions, labeled the list as "List of 10 most unusual novelty sock patterns:" and then gave them to various neural networks as a list to complete.

Here are some completions I got from the Ada model of GPT-3, a text-generating model released in 2020. Ada can generate words and phrases, but can barely follow a prompt.

GPT-3 Ada (2020):

“Cruxx” Slurpees with a fish in an orange
“Fängche” with french fries on top of a pocket-full of ice cream
A shirt made out of a jello stick – it looks like a hamburger, but it’s not.
“A halved grapefruit!” with lollipops
Some kind of replica of The Lord of the Rings party balloon, with rainbow balls, pink hoses, and blood in tributes to the Great Hair String of Friendship
Over a million memory sticks made from stars
“Shocking in the head!” more brightly colored balloons

In my original prompt format I used quotes for text that was actually written on the sock, which means that Ada's lollipops sock has the words "a halved grapefruit" written on it. And the jello stick hamburger item is not a shirt, but a sock with a picture of the shirt on it. Unless Ada has completely lost the plot and is not even generating socks anymore, which frankly is likely.

Babbage is the next-largest GPT-3 model from 2020, and it is doing better at being socks, although many of its socks seem very tricky to illustrate.

GPT-3 Babbage (2020):

Robots posing with some butter
“Ink!” cats with pink blotches
Violins and Prawns
“Santa it is” with polar bears and elves in a sleigh
“Dreamy ghosts” ghosts with binoculars
“Rainbow Rap!” hot air balloons and boing! boing!
A twin-headed dragon jumps through a trap door
A potato upside down with superpowers
A day going on but no moon just like a horror movie

Slightly more coherent are the socks from the next-largest GPT-3 model, Curie.

GPT-3 Curie (2020)

The Statue of Liberty with a 3-sided pancake.
Orca whale jumping through a ring of socks.
Octopus holding lemons
“Turtle is Delighted” turtle with a backpack
A stampede with bulls and zebras
Pumpkin patch with cutouts of squirrels having a picnic
“Make a toast to the kachunkers” with a bear holding a glass of tomato juice
Grinning neutrinos with dirty fingers
“As above, so below” with cats on the moon
A lion eating a Space Shuttle
Hamsters skating down a rainbow

I should note that I'm only showing maybe 1/10 of the generated socks. Most of the socks made very little sense and were hard to visualize, and/or seemed vaguely offensive. Once the output included something that was political or violent or sexual, most of what came afterwards would also be unusable. It's as if any list that includes this kind of content once will include it again - which seems pretty consistent with what I know about the websites in its example data.

The largest GPT-3 model, DaVinci, exhibits a different failure mode:

GPT-3 DaVinci (2020):

Massive group of goats wearing party hats
Unicorn riding a rainbow
Flying hedgehog
Robotic bulldog
Ninjas and kittens
“Lmao!” a flatulent dog with a mustache
Googly eyed donuts wrapped in bacon
A set of eyes wearing suspenders and monocle
“Come on in! The water’s liquid!” – grumpy cat in red bathing suit
“I can Haz!” a sitting Trojan Horse
“Bark like doggone it!” dancing dogs on black background

They're novelty socks, but they're not very novel novelty socks. These are all mishmashed common trendy tropes, and it makes it look like it's trying much too hard.

The problem is that GPT-3's job is not to write something new - its job is to predict the internet text in its training data. And its training data of course is from the past. So when I ask it to generate the most unusual novelty socks that nobody's ever heard of, what I'm really doing is asking it to reproduce part of a website from the past, say, from 2015, that lists the hottest new novelty socks. And the better the AI can reproduce that, the more familiar its novelty socks will seem.

So, whenever one of these models is upgraded, it becomes less good at novelty socks. "Text-davinci-003", the updated 2022 version of GPT-3 DaVinci, not only repeats common T-shirt phrases (“Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn.”), but often remixes images that already appear on a lot of novelty socks.

GPT-3 DaVinci (2022)

Turtles with top hats
Donuts with little cats
Flying donuts in space
Paw Prints on Hearts
Giraffe with peanut butter and jelly sandwich
“Go bananas” with bananas wearing shirts
“The sky is the limit” with hot air balloons
“Do your best moustache impresion” with a cat mustache

I have even more trouble getting new sock ideas out of chatgpt, which OpenAI released in 2022 as a text generator designed to be more coherent and less likely to veer off into offensive content. Chatgpt's lists of socks seemed to converge on socks about alliterative animals.

Chatgpt (2022):

“Giraffe galore” with giraffes in top hats
“Sloth soiree” with sloths in tuxedos
“Panda pandemonium” with pandas in party hats
“Butterfly bliss” with butterfly wings and flowers
“Gopher grooves” with dancing gophers

Even when it specifically asked for anything but alliterative animals, I would get them. It would even start putting them in alphabetical order, and restricting itself to just ungulates. (Admittedly I would consider wearing these.)

“Zebra zest” with zebras in top hats and bow ties
“Antelope anarchy” with antelopes in party hats
“Deer dance” with deer in party hats
“Elk extravaganza” with elk in party hats
“Reindeer ruckus” with reindeer in party hats
“Caribou carnival” with caribou in party hats
“Gazelle groove” with gazelles in party hats
“Impala jam” with impalas in party hats
“Kudu karaoke” with kudus in party hats
“Nyala nightlife” with nyalas in party hats
“Oryx outing” with oryxes in party hats

If I phrased my request right, I could get something other than alliterative ungulates. But it is very much an early-2000s "wow, have you ever seen llamas on socks? lol i'm so random" sort of website vibe.

List of 10 most unusual novelty sock patterns:
Socks with cats playing piano
Socks with avocado pattern
Socks with flamingo print
Socks with sushi design
Socks with llama pattern
Socks with cactus print
Socks with banana design
Socks with panda bear pattern
Socks with watermelon print
Socks with hamburger design

If chatgpt's job is to imitate the old websites in its training data, and also do well in whatever additional "be a good question answerer" training it got, then this makes sense as the result. But it also makes chatgpt less useful to me. For a neural net to be good at generating new things, glitchiness is a good thing.

Bonus content: The 2020 GPT-3 DaVinci did produce some highly weird, highly difficult to illustrate socks, in addition to the somewhat predictable ones I included to make a point. I've collected some of them as bonus content!

Four very strange Victorian-esque Christmas cards, with leaping artichokes, dancing seahorses, and sledding poops.

Victorian Holiday cards by AI

I'll admit I don't understand Victorian holiday cards - why would Christmas be best illustrated by a pipe-smoking kangaroo in a dressing gown painting a portrait of a cigar-smoking stork? Or what would lead someone to give their loved ones a card with a crowd of sparrows marching with flaming torches and the message "May All Jollity ‘lighten’ Your Christmas Hours"?

But it seemed to me that they'd make a good starting point for generating some interesting holiday cards. Modern holiday cards have a pretty limited set of messages and iconography, so it would be pretty easy for a text-generating neural net to memorize the list, or for an internet-trained AI to pick out closely-related phrases to add to whatever list I gave it. But to me, at least, Victorian holiday cards are hard to predict. So, I decided to see what would happen if I gave GPT-3 a list of messages from real Victorian cards, along with descriptions of their illustrations, and asked it to predict the next entries on the list.

Here are some of the cards GPT-3 predicted. I did my best to add illustrations according to its descriptions.

Sir Now I Bid You Not Fare Well But Fare ye Very Well Indeed, 1889 A towering helmeted seahorse on two tiny, dancing legs.
While I Yet Pray That You May Safely Hope for All Pleasure and Satisfaction, 1890 - Three leaping artichokes.
May You Feel Sturdy And Gay, 1890 An elegant naiad holding a pianoforte and wearing striped swimming bathing suit
Wishing you – Luck and love at CHRISTMAS Three poops, the pets of “Jolly Old Quaker” Father Christmas, ride in a sled.

GPT-3 also generated some cards that I didn't quite feel up to the task of illustrating.

May the seasons happiness envelope you
An ostrich riding both a carousel and a balloon
A Merry Christmas And Joye To Thee Throughe-Out The Next Yeare
In dark hues, a boar does cartwheels under a crescent moon, a bat flies with a bird, a snail sings her accordion, and a leering masked figure lurks.
A Merry XMAS
A cowboy on an ostrich horse wrestles a bear on all fours
A Happy New Year
A black cat in a red dress sends valentine cards with a message asking, “What have you done?” A burning fireplace with two measuring sticks for fire tools.
Don't Forget That Jolly Has The Same Ending As Jolly, 1891
A cat with furled umbrella and triangular ruffled hat bows to a butterfly
I Wish You The Greatest Amount of Jollity, 1889
A jester puppet with magic hat holds a leaping, toothed bird which brandishes a cane as it leaps.
May the mild Cares of your hearth and home Prove a source of pure and storyst delight, 1889
An orange cat with a winged head, wearing spectacles And hat, and carring an unidentified object at his side.
Wishing You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, 1889
A seal in a top-hat riding a shark; black ink stains mar the seal’s fur and beard, and the beard of the hiding man in the background.

Did GPT-3 do a good job? I don't even know. Mostly that's because I don't know that much about Victorian cards. I thought the cowboy was way out of place until I remembered that Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) has a Texan cowboy in it, so the rest of these could be right too.

That's one thing about AI-generated text nowadays - it copies the style but not the substance. Whatever it generates might look correct to most people, but not to an expert. Approximately correct can backfire in some applications.

The above cards were from the largest GPT-3 model, DaVinci. I also had the smallest model, Ada, generate some cards. They tended to be harder to illustrate, although they had the macabre notes in some of these cards down exactly.

A Mistletoe Party A bunch of cardinals holding an isolated piece of frosty teddy bear
A Christmas Tree
A frantic octopus watches Santa descend from the sky out of a dark, drapery-clad window.
A Christmas Party
A man wearing a Christmas tuxedo and a coal tar bonfire that no one expected is Decorating Your Christmas Tree

They don't do Christmas like they used to.

Confuse your loved ones with some weird holiday cards from the AI Weirdness store!

Bonus: More Victorian holiday cards from DaVinci and Ada!

The word "fart" written 251 times, rated as 99.98% fake by the GPT2 detector

Apparently I am a robot

As AI-generated text is getting better, it's getting easier to pass it off as human-written. That's not to say it's as good as human-written. Its goal is to sound correct rather than be correct, so it has a well-known tendency to confidently make stuff up [
Three advent calendars with illegible numbers and inscrutable illustrations

AI Advent Calendar 2022

Please enjoy this advent calendar, generated and illustrated with the help of three machine learning models (GPT-3, DALL-E, and Midjourney)

Full door descriptions

  1. Eggnog as far as the eye could see
  2. The fantastical lion of Mor-Bollox
  3. Saturated Red Turkeys.
  4. Blue reindeer (they're bouncing)
  5. Candy Cane Palm Trees
  6. A smiling present.
  7. Blitzen, bowling
  8. Undy, Undy, Underscore.
  9. Cheetah print stegosaurus
  10. Whistling Christmas Trees
  11. Giraffes holly.
  12. Underwater pine tree
  13. Dire reindeer, before the meltdown
  14. Lightning Chestnuts
  15. Bouncing top hat beetle
  16. Laser-eyed deer
  17. Snakes in Hats
  18. Gecko Poinsettias
  19. Melted Ornaments
  20. Christmas on mars
  21. Tinsel Parrots
  22. Christmas Caroling snails
  23. Astro gingerbears in space suits
  24. A disgruntled christmas tree brandishing a plasma cannon
1. A family of Santa Clauses, posing for a photograph.
2. A sleigh pulled by a weasel.
3. A particularly foul, possibly magical green liquid.
4. A hand reaching through a curtain to steal a Christmas tree.
5. Santa Claus, jumping from a chair into a box.
6. Santa Claus bouncing on a trampoline, and playing a banjo.
7. A plate of seven yellow and seven purple rocks.
8. Snow blowing up into the air.
9. A grizzly bear driving a sno-cone cart.
10. A pack of wolves playing poker. Some are wearing antlers.
11. A reindeer with a plate of green-and-yellow cupcakes.
12. Santa Claus with a centipede on a leash.
13. A snowman holding a sign reading

How it was done:

I used GPT-3 to generate the door descriptions of an advent calendar by having it complete the following story:

It is the year 20022 and the robots have carried on certain human traditions. Many of them come and go, but every year without fail there is an advent calendar, originated by a glitchy robot santa in collaboration with a motorized christmas tree. The robots have researched the calendar and determined that the Christmas scenes behind each door are highly atypical of the human tradition, but everyone enjoys them anyways.
The Christmas advent calendar for the year 20022:
Brief door descriptions:

I used the original DaVinci variant of GPT-3, which tends to be better at generating weird text than the newer variants (which try too hard to make it look like text they've seen before). As usual, I kept maybe 1 in 10 door descriptions it generated, with the others being usually either too strange to illustrate, or close copies of doors it had already generated.

For the illustrations, I used two different text-to-image models, DALL-E2 and Midjourney, asking them both for something like "The minty breath of the Starfish, 16-bit pixel art game cut scene" in an attempt to get them to generate an image that would look good while tiny.

Unlike Pixray, which I used to generate images for the 2021 advent calendar, DALL-E2 and Midjourney aren't actually working with just a few pixels. Instead, they're faking it. Look at the image below, which DALL-E2 generated for the door description "The minty breath of the Starfish". It seems at first glance to be pixel art, but the pixels vary in alignment, size, and aspect ratio. Some pixels even have curved sides. It knows approximately what pixel art looks like but not WHY pixel art looks that way. I find the concept of fake pixel art pretty funny.

A starfish floats above the ocean floor between two rock cliffs, dangling a smaller sea creature on a blue string. The style is pixel art but upon closer inspection the resolution is much higher than the size of the "pixels" which are misshapen and misaligned.
Prompt: "The minty breath of the Starfish, 16-bit pixel art high resolution game scene"

Midjourney takes even more license with the concept of pixel art. It has a limited color palette and some lines with pixelated edges. But are those smooth gradients in the sky and water? And how big are its "pixels" anyways? The midjourney model is optimized to make things look pretty above all, including above fidelity to my weird prompts.

A starfish floats above a grass-covered rock on the beach as a long wave rolls in. The style is painterly pixel art, something like in a late 1990s point and click game, but even though some objects have blocky edges the pixels themselves are aliased and some are even rounded blobs.
Prompt: "The minty breath of the Starfish, 16-bit pixel art game cut scene --v 4 --ar 3:2"

The "minty breath of the Starfish" door is one of the ones I rejected as not likely to work well when illustrated. Sure enough, both models just slapped a starfish in an ocean scene and called it a day.

I collected a few other rejected/hard to illustrate doors that I nevertheless found interesting, and they're available as a bonus post!

galactica confidently asserts that the maximum output power achieved by a laser made entirely of cotton balls is 1.39 W.

Galactica: the AI knowledge base that makes stuff up

It seems like it's every couple of months that a big tech company releases a language model that's supposed to do amazing things. The Allen Institute for AI's Delphi [https://] , whose authors said it "demonstrates strong promise of language-based commonsense moral reasoning" would judge anything
You've successfully subscribed to AI Weirdness
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to AI Weirdness
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Unable to sign you in. Please try again.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Error! Stripe checkout failed.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Error! Billing info update failed.