The neural network meets its match: Fish biologists
(Drawing by Max Graenitz)
I train machine learning programs called neural networks - they work by looking at lists of data and then deducing their own rules about how to generate similar data. They’re used in everything from ad targeting to facial recognition to self-driving cars, but I use them for humor by giving them very silly datasets.
Usually in my experiment, I give the neural network an unfair dataset - like paint colors - and it tries its best, but ends up with something unintentionally weird, like a brownish color called Stanky Bean, or a bright blue color called Dad.
Fish biologist Colin Gross sent me a new dataset for the neural network, a list of the common names of 37,265 fish from fishbase.
I gave the list to an open-source neural network and let it start trying to generate more fish.
Here’s a snapshot of its early attempts, as it tried to spell common words like “butterflyfish” and “shark” and “snapper”
Spotfin sul shripper
But then, it got good at this. I mean, really really good at this. You may think these names are the neural network being weird? No. They are pretty much indistinguishable from actual fish common names because, let me tell you, fish biologists are the weird ones.
The rest of this post is going to be the neural network’s ode to its new best friends, the fish biologists. And, I am very lucky to have excellent drawings by the talented Max Graenitz who wanted to get in on the weird-fest.
Black Sea sweetlips
Eastern Dear eel
Oastern nose sucker
Cuban fork head sucker
Gempofloise sand flaky
Gerpike dwarf monocle bream
Bluebacked tube-spot skate
Wallare pipe-eyed parrotfish
Dantuman ghost puffer
Horny deepwater darter
Yellow-black yellowtail dragonet
Small-mouthed unicorn fish
Horse-snout fang-tailed dogfish
Pacific headless lamprey
Danubiec spring-striped lumpsucker
Vague-lined sleeper-banded soapfish
Daui’s deepwater redhorse
Khan’s hound shark
Lanto sand tiger unicorn fish
Bow spiny lumpsucker
Binder’s flathead parrotfish
Hawaiian Stump ray
Black Sea gardenfish
Black Sea jobfish
Short-nosed jewelled-eyed rainbowfish
Bostriebann flute-tooth wolffish
Kack’s coral gropes
Kalhal gardensean block ray
Sudderspot happy ghost-perch
Sunsetnose spider shark
Black Sea lampeye
Striped flying fang loach
Striped hone-spine dottyback
Greater butterfly tube-snouted ghost knifefish
Cuban armoured cat
I’ve posted the original dataset so you can see I am NOT KIDDING about how weird fish names are.
Become an AI Weirdness supporter to get bonus content! Or become a free subscriber to get new posts in your inbox.