A look to the future

SINCE artificial intelligence (AI) helped give us a look at Perth’s past, we decided to play around with the recent advances in machine-generated imagery by asking an AI to show us Perth in the future.

The program, Midjourney, has access to countless millions of images on the web that are typically associated with related keywords. 

When users enter a phrase it finds photos just like a regular image search, but then melds elements of a multitude of images together. 

Over generations the program gets ‘trained’ by humans telling the designers it’s done a good job and created a sensible image and not a deranged monstrosity that would only make sense to a computer.

When we plugged in “Perth, Western Australia, 1000 years in the future”, the program took a few minutes to consult its massive store of images, working through many blurry iterations as it honed in on a consensus for what would make a good image, and finally it shortlisted some imagined variations of Perth in the year 3022AD that revolved around two main themes.

One was a pretty recognisable futuristic waterfront view of the skyline. Elizabeth Quay finally looked finished, appearing to be peppered with mature trees. A lightsabre was coming out of what appears to be the Brookfield Place, to remind us this is the future.

In its alternative vision for the future, the city’s citizens have tried to grow plants on the sides of buildings in a harsh environment. The scene looks influenced from the program drawing on landscape artists from the Heidelberg School mixed with some vivid Sydney Nolan, and the AI decided the riverbed would be dry 1000 years from now. 

The programs have drawn some complaints from artists that their hard work is being used in the final products. An image generated by Midjourney has already managed to win a prize at the Colorado State Fair, prompting arts organisations to scramble to come up with a rulebook to handle machine art.

by DAVID BELL

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