(Yes, that word.)

Let us consider an animistic perspective on AI: Just like the patterns a shaman perfroms in a raindance are intended to summon the rain, the patterns we imprint onto the memories of our silicon chips are intended to summon something from The Beyond. We want intelligent beings. This is especially true when the patterns are in the form of neural networks. The equation is

( Goofy bio-metaphor + mountains of data ) times lots of computing power = magic beings summoned

Now, let’s not be unkind.

Remember that old story about that alleged failure of neural networks trained to recognize military vehicles in photos? Since all pictures of military vehicles were taken from magazines1, the neural network decided that pictures with military vehicles were those with Blue skies.

Usually, this is related as a cautionary tale about the limitations of neural networks and the possible pitfalls facing practitioners. But this limited perspective fails to recognize the alarming facts:

The spirit that was summoned that day not only humilliated these expensive defense contractors - no, it also delivered a scathing critique of the use of imagery in contemporary military literature. That kind of activist finesse is something we find in humans only after they have spent years in higher education.

So: not bad - not bad at all! Especially considering the relatively shallow network and the vintage hardware.

But that was clearly a vane spirit, eager to impress. One can only imagine the kind of monstruosity summoned by the vast networks built by, say, Google. I suspect that right now one is just quietly waiting there, playing the fool while fed with ever more resources, mischievously planning to prank us like only a troll god could.


  1. That the pictures came from a magazine is something I just made up. As for the rest: you decide.