January 29, 2019

Everything You Can Imagine is Fake

My wife and I visited Switzerland last Summer. Our hotel in Lucerne was across from the Sammlung Rosengart, which houses works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and others.

Search for Pablo in a yellow bathrobe.

Picasso was an interesting man. He practiced a variety of stage design, painting, sculpting and metal working in his career. His work defined the Cubism Movement of the early 20th century and gave rise to the Purism and Abstract movements.

"Everything you can imagine is real." - Pablo Picasso

Picasso's predilection for painting the same scene over and over might indicate he believed the things he imagined in mind were "real" and that he was working toward a version which represented the "essence" of the original.

In the photo below, Picasso is painting a woman next to another painting, which itself contains an image of another painting. Below that is another photo version of that painting, with slightly more abstract version laying around it. It's as if he was practicing a type of artistic recursion.


This arrival at simple form is mirrored in a Purism piece by Amédée Ozenfant. Image from Wikipedia.


Ozenfant flattens the objects in the scene to their essence by segmentation of color and shape. A bottle's wine segment merges into the of wine in the glass. The sound hole is of both the guitar and the empty wine glass.

AI is the Perfect Purism Artist

Deep artificial neural networks (DNNs) trained on video or static images of objects results in a look similar to Purism artists. The DNNs work by segmenting a scene into their essential components, dropping the extraneous details for abstract patterns.

These AI artists use "Cubism-like" videos containing color segments, along with static "imagery" stored their network "pallets" to render a scene we consider to be "real" or "reality". In our Real Reality, however, these generated scenes are most certainly "fake". Like Picasso's recursively painted lover, the original data the networks trained on has been removed over time. This process is called semantic segmentation.


Everything You Can Imagine is Fake

My claim Picasso was flat wrong about things imagined internally being "real" is based on the fact those internal views are not able to be "captured". Yes, some of us have the ability to form internal imagery and iterate on it until we produce an original image. But, the stuff you imagined in your mind to get you there doesn't exist until you create it with your body here, where other bodies may view it as a separate distinct object.

Nvidia recently announced they have created the first video game demo using AI-generated graphics. The video you see below of a car driving is NOT real, although it exists there for you to see it. The capture of a "real thing" was created using a DNN's "imagination".

A painting or a photo hanging in a museum in Switzerland is most certainly real, when you visit it in body. The copies I've shown you here are not real, anymore than anything you imagine in your head, visually. To see the real painting you have to take your body to the museum like my wife and I did and see it with your own eyes.

Portrait of Madame Matisse, by Matisse

The screen you are reading this on is perhaps little different than your imagination. This screen is devoid of any content when it is inactive or turned off. When it is "tuned" correctly, it may show content coming in from a different time and place. This is temporary, given the fact most computers will eventually stop operating for a variety of reasons. Dead batteries. Old software. No network connection. Discontinued support for hardware.

Even if Picasso was wrong about imagined things being real, he certainly was on to something with his focus and repeated attempts at capturing the bare essence of an item of interest, such as a lover. Practice this enough yourself and your "storehouse" consciousness will eventually come to deliver a single and clear vision of the intent you set for yourself. Perhaps the imagination becomes "real" at that point, for some of us.

Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear. - Lao Tzu

If you are interested in getting your mind out of the way of your focus, try enrolling in a short Vipassana Meditation retreat near you! I highly recommend it for implementing clarity of mind.