the Freeman Expansion

So, I was playing in Stable Diffusion, trying to turn a bunch of celebrities into werewolves (like you do).

It had an easier time with some people than others, imagining the logical hybrid of man and wolf. I noticed it struggled more with darker skinned individuals, particularly mid-transformation. I’m still not sure why.

(Wait. Are werewolves exclusively portrayed by white actors? Pretty much. Wow. We should definitely fix that. If only for a more complete data set.)

Anyway, these were the best it would give me with Morgan Freeman:

I wasted an hour trying to turn that last one into a classic sci-fi/horror book cover, but nothing worth sharing came out of that session.

Clearly, the AI wanted him to be a vampire.

I didn’t want him to be a vampire. But I didn’t need him to be a werewolf.

The blue tint made me think “sea monster”.

I guess I envisioned a kraken rising from the depths, with Morgan Freeman’s werewolf head mounted on its body. But I didn’t yet have the tools to communicate what I wanted.

Thus began a series of explorations, trying to make the computer come up with that idea on its own.

(Pro tip: Failure to communicate is a great source of happy accidents!)

That eventually led to a compelling idea.

An undersea battle in which one of the combatants, a sea monster, is also Morgan Freeman.

There’s still much cleanup needed, to clarify his anatomy and make visual sense of the scene. (The tentacles should push out along his cheeks. I think they currently extend from behind his labionasal folds. Also, that octopus has WAY too many pseudopods.)

I’ll revisit that some other time. It’s worth fixing.

But in the moment, that was taking too long.

I went back a few steps, and generated more sea monsters, having refined my description to reflect the new goal.

(Pro tip: Moving the goalpost is an excellent source of happy accidents!)

That brings us here:

Two wizards, one of which is an octopus.

I should explain, we’re running into a fun quirk of Stable Diffusion:

You can try to describe two things next to each other, and it will generally merge them into one thing, whether or not that’s what you wanted. But sometimes, like here, it actually separates the ideas you were trying to create a hybrid of.

(hence, Morgan Freeman next to a wolf, instead of Morgan Freeman transforming into a werewolf, in that first set up top)

Anyway, that’s a great hairstyle for an octopus. Let’s explore further.

(here’s where things start to get interesting…)

What I wanted to do was clean up the octopus and get everything else out of the water.

Like so:

That’s what was supposed to happen.

To accomplish this, I first tried masking out extra tentacles, and changing my prompt to “ocean”. My next render would then attempt to fill that space with water. But it also added more tentacles, because it saw tentacles everywhere and just naturally assumed that’s what I wanted.

There are better ways to go about that. I didn’t know them yet. And I wasn’t thrilled with how my process was going, so I came up with another shortcut.

(Pro tip: Trying to save time is a fantastic source of happy accidents!)

I went back to my original image, and this time only selected the octopus’ hair and eyes. I told the computer to replace everything else, and to do so 30 or 40 times while I left to get dinner. I figured one of those would be a better starting point.

But I forgot to remind it that we were drawing an octopus.

All it knew was that I wanted the ocean.
…with a few chunks of octopus in it.

And that naturally leads here:

What the?!

I know what you’re thinking: “Finally, a proper sea monster!”

We’ll come back to that.

But for now, I was still trying to make my lovable octopus with a head of mad scientist hair. And I wasn’t done taking shortcuts.

So, here’s a few attempts at breeding Christopher Lloyd with an octopus:

None of those are the hybrid I was looking for, though I am fond of the fourth image. (it could be the poster art for a Christopher Lloyd biopic, starring Hugh Lawrie.)

I mostly share them because viewing each image through the lens of what failed reveals some of the bias inherent in the system.

The first three are what it thinks an octopus would look like, if that octopus were Christopher Lloyd. (So, if you subtract the octopus, what’s left are the quintessential features it’s decided a Christopher Lloyd should contain. Granted, its usually wrong. See sidebar below.)

The fourth one is just a lovely undersea portrait.

#5 brings us Christopher Lloyd with vaguely cephalopod features (producing, I think, what the lovechild of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Woody Harrelson might look like).

But that last one is close. It’s clearly Doc Brown, with an octopus wrapped around his face. And the world needs to see that.

So, I took the time to extend it.

…and of course, things went a different way.

I wear a bowtie now. Bowties are cool.

It’s still Doc Brown, but now he’s being piloted by an alien.
And you can tell that’s what’s happening, ’cause his hair is combed straight.

Or it could be Leslie Neilsen.

Sidebar: What makes these fire hydrants different from other fire hydrants?

If you guessed “Samuel L Jackson”, I would love for you to explain yourself.

But, yes. That is Samuel L Hydrant. Apparently.

I can only assume that Mr. Jackson wore a hat and a monocle in one of his movies, and that this is what the AI latched onto?

Moving on!

Back to this guy…

Did you forget about him? I wish I could.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with this, so I just started extending the ocean around him.

At some point, the AI decided there was enough water, and insisted that what I really wanted was a picture frame.

And then the frame glitched, and finally that gave me a plan.

Here’s the final image. It was a lot of work to get right.

…and it never would have happened, but for flawed celebrity werewolves.

So! What are some takeaways here?

  • Don’t be afraid to explore bad ideas. Bad ideas lead to good ideas!
  • Bad ideas also lead to bad ideas! Don’t get too attached to them.
  • Reframing an idea leads to new ideas.
  • Your first draft is almost never good. Focus on the potential.
  • Innovation comes from iteration.
  • All software is flawed, and all systems are biased.
  • Idiosyncratic behavior is a bug, AND a feature!





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