Satyr by Jens Knappe

Satyr by Jens Knappe

Jens Knappe, Satyrs, Gamut Verlag Berlin 2023.

Award-winning author and photographer Jens Knappe created one hundred SATYRs with the help of a generative AI. This book is the result of a joint effort of human and artificial creativity, exploring the depths of the most ancient archetype of the troubled and tormented soul. These often unintentionally tragically funny, spooky, haunted, sometimes mean and scary characters can be traced back to Greek mythology as part of the Dionysian Wild Bunch party crew, and most likely played their role in much older societies without a written language that allowed these myths to be transported word for word into our time.

This book comes less than six months after the publication of an in-depth analysis of the first wave of generative AI by the same author, on text-to-image systems, in the book “Genesis”. Although the ink on the first edition of “Genesis” has barely dried, the time for an update on this technology was already overdue: in the last 5 months we have witnessed the release of new revolutionary AI applications almost daily; the technology of this short period would have filled a decade under normal circumstances.

This book is about the wild fantasies of an AI based on the currently so successful “Transformer” architectures. In addition to the parallel structure, which has the practical advantage of speeding up computation manyfold, these systems engage in the creation of small artifacts in each operation, tiny “creative” acts that add up to what we might identify in the larger picture as something like true genius. This mechanism is essentially what makes these systems so artistically interesting. The flipside is that these creative architectures tend to “fantasize,” they make things up.

Artificial Creativity has exploded in recent months, especially in the creation of visual content. And that is what this book is about. At the same time, these are the same basic structures that are fueling the greatest hype in the history of Artificial Intelligence. And while these Transformer-based models are so wonderful for creating art, they will never acquire anything like “common sense”. All attempts to hardcode values into them will remain unsatisfactory and inefficient. It is like trying to hold water in your hands. As nice as all this is for creating images, allowing current AI architectures to run our vital societal systems would be nothing short of collective suicide. Even implementing these systems in web search (which is what is currently being done) is fraught with significant dangers.

This book is not only an illustration of one of humanity’s oldest mythological characters, but it also shows some of the very characteristic features of today’s AI systems. It’s entertaining, funny, but it can easily turn spooky, haunted, mean and scary.

Jens Knappe

The author: Jens Knappe studied Media and American Studies in Mainz, Moscow and Berkeley. His academic work deals with such diverse topics as the media covera­ge of the German unification pro­cess, attempts to achieve thought control through language in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s era, and the consequences of new technological developments. He is the author of the mono­graphs “The Nature of Cyberspace”, “The United States and German Unification”, “Berlin Repu­blic. Capital as a Stage” and “Genesis”. Jens Knappe runs a photo agency in Berlin.

Jens Knappe: Satyrs, Gamut Verlag, Berlin 2023.

ISBN 978-3-940948-39-7

114 pages, 100 images


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