Now A.I. is Deliberately Trying to Scare Us, if We Aren't Already

Programmers at MIT publish A.I.-generated scary images scary for Halloween.


Okay, so we're already kind of scared about the kind of mega-genie we're letting out of the bottle in our pursuit of A.I. Stephen Hawking has infamously warned us, telling the BBC in 2014, "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race," and telling The Guardian recently, that it's "either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity." Now scientists at MIT have launched the Nightmare Machine project, the first attempt by A.I. to deliberately terrify us — it’s a web site and an Instagram.

Happy Halloween!

WARNING! IMAGES ON THIS WEBSITE ARE GENERATED BY DEEP LEARNING ALGORITHMS AND MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL USERS. THEY CONTAIN SCARY CONTENT.

(All of the images below are by MIT.)

The website fun begins with a gallery of disturbing face collages that MIT's algorithm considers unsettling. Most of them have been distorted in some way, or even bloodied. Ick.

Here’s what A.I. did to poor Brad Pitt, from Instagram.

The rest of the page is an assortment of A.I.-generated "haunted places." It's fascinating to see what the machines consider scary. All of the pictures are tinted in some manner, and the scenes depicted are distorted in some creepy way, or the clouds above them are made artificially ominous. For some locales, it doesn’t take much to become genuinely creepy.

Instagram has before-and-after images, such as this one that seems to encompass the yin and yang of Disney.

With some of the images, the terror is built-in.

Some of if looks a bit like Google’s A.I. dreaming project. Beyond that, you have to wonder if the algorithm contains some kind of internal table of colors and the motions they illicit.

MIT wants their A.I. to get even better at this, so they'd love for you to go to the site and let them know which of their attempts successfully give you the willies. Maybe they should ask these folks who know something about spooktacular Halloweens.

Oh, also: Boo!

Trusting your instincts is lazy: Poker pro Liv Boeree on Big Think Edge

International poker champion Liv Boeree teaches decision-making for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to make decisions with the clarity of a World Series Poker Champion.
  • Liv Boeree teaches analytical thinking for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Stress is contagious–but resilience can be too

The way that you think about stress can actually transform the effect that it has on you – and others.

Big Think Edge
  • Stress is contagious, and the higher up in an organization you are the more your stress will be noticed and felt by others.
  • Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Philosopher Alan Watts: 'Why modern education is a hoax'

Explore a legendary philosopher's take on how society fails to prepare us for education and progress.

Alan Watts.
Personal Growth
  • Alan Watts was an instrumental figure in the 1960s counterculture revolution.
  • He believed that we put too much of a focus on intangible goals for our educational and professional careers.
  • Watts believed that the whole educational enterprise is a farce compared to how we should be truly living our lives.
Keep reading Show less

5 short podcasts to boost your creativity and success

These quick bursts of inspiration will brighten your day in 10 minutes or less.

Personal Growth

Podcasts can educate us on a variety of topics, but they don't have to last an hour or more to have an impact on the way you perceive the world. Here are five podcasts that will boost your creativity and well-being in 10 minutes or less.

Keep reading Show less