I’ve been maybe a little bit obsessed with AI generated art apps, though not just because of the pretty art. Rather, my fascination comes from the way such AI generated art shifts my former paradigm on the mind-soul relation. Does an AI really lack soul? That’s the question I’ve been kicking around in my head.
After my blog post on How Do We Value Art? What AI art means for tarot and oracle deck publishing, one recurring sentiment expressed in the comments section on Instagram and Facebook was that the art created by an AI lacks soul, whereas art created by humans reflect the artist’s soul, and that is why human-created art is superior.
Really? Because I’m not convinced.
When I look at the AI’s pictorial interpretation of the 64 hexagrams, I’m not convinced that these works “lack soul.” If I’m getting all psychic and woo, I might say the impression of the soul that’s present feels different from a human sapient soul, just like an animal’s sentient soul or a tree’s soul feels different, but there’s something of “originality” here. And in all honesty could you have even discerned the difference between this and a human’s digital art handiwork?
I also would not claim these works are “co-created” by the AI and me. That’s like saying if I’m a patron and I’ve commissioned Michelangelo to paint me a fresco, giving him a couple of key ideas for what I want to see, then claim that Michelangelo’s finished painting was “co-created” by me. Nay, I would say I came up with the idea to create an I Ching keywords deck and the AI is the artist who illustrated it.
After all, what exactly is the difference between (A) our commission of inspiration into the AI app and it using its innate algorithm to generate a creative work based on the key ideas we gave vs. (B) a divine inspiration we human artists download and, using our innate algorithm, generate a creative work?
Even when we say something like, that AI is compiling a multitude of past preexisting artwork and reformulating it to generate your commissioned original work, how is that any different from what a human artist does with our learned knowledge and our inherited knowledge from the collective consciousness?
When we say the AI is creating art based on a human-designed program that aggregates all past records of human-created art, and that’s how it creates its “original” works– how is that so different from saying I subconsciously and even unconsciously pull from knowledge I’m not even aware of, perhaps knowledge programmed into me when I was born, when I create an “original” work?
Is the AI’s algorithmic process for producing an original work of art based on certain input and parameters any different from my creative process for producing an original work of art, also based on certain input and parameters?
I CHING KEYWORDS ORACLE CARDS
That’s not an official name for this deck, by the way. It’s merely descriptive. I didn’t give the deck a name.
I’m far from being the only tarot person who has gone nuts playing around with that Wombo app tinkering until I’ve made myself a personal use tarot or oracle deck. =) I’m just sharing my tinkerings with you. That’s all this is. And if it amuses you, then here are the formatted files you’ll need to create your own copy of my tinkering.
The JPG image files as-is in the download look like they’ve got disproportionately thick borders. That’s the bleed margins that print-on-demand sites like MakePlayingCards.com (MPC) require.
with 36 px bleed for MPC Print-on-demand
For the design, I decided against inclusion of the hexagram numbers. It’s easy to look up anyway. You don’t really need the hexagram numbers printed on the cards.
The keywords are my own, based on how I might distill the essence and spirit of each hexagram into a word or three.
I did not post a ready-to-order listing on MPC for you to click and buy. You’ll have to download my card images, upload them onto that site, and do it all yourself. Fortunately, MPC’s instructions are easy to follow.
While I have provided a default card back design, you’re certainly not committed to using it. Feel free to customize and create your own. Here are the specs you’ll need to use:
- Width: 1149 pixels (3.830 in.)
- Height: 1884 pixels (6.280 in.)
- Resolution: 300.000 pixels / inch
To ensure that none of your design gets cut off at the edges, leave a minimum of 36 pixels (at 300 dpi) along all four sides. Just to be safe, I’d even leave up to 72 pixels all around. But it’s entirely up to you.
For each work of AI generated art, I’d input into app.wombo.art my keywords for that I Ching hexagram plus keywords for the two trigrams and, in a few instances when that hexagram evoked in me a particularly strong impression of color, then I’d also type in that color. For all, I selected the art style option Ukiyoe.
All of the final illustrated works in the deck were what the AI generated, as-is, except for two compositions where the first output didn’t look quite right to me, so I generated a secondary illustration from the app and then combined the two. Those two works are the following cards:
- Hexagram 37: Interdependence
- Hexagram 49: Revolution
Almost prescient, wouldn’t you say? =) It certainly feels synchronistic.
I was rather startled by how on point many of the AI generated illustrations were, in terms of expressing the core essence of the hexagram. Even how the images of certain hexagram pairings related to each other was rather eerie.
Heaven over Heaven for Hexagram 1 shows the sky. Earth over Earth for Hexagram 2 shows what looks underground, at a cave’s entrance maybe. And then check out Hexagram 63 After the Ending and Hexagram 64 Before the Ending, and the interplay between the two illustratons. I had no hand in that. The AI gave those pictorial interpretations, based on the hexagram and trigrams.
Sure, some of the AI generated art caused me to scratch my head, but I didn’t second-guess or doubt the AI. I went with what the AI created and did not insert my personal vision or try to exert control. I really wanted the premise here to be that the AI is the artist.
I designed the hexagram images using a red and black seamless tile dragon pattern I created back when I was coloring in the SKT Revelation deck. The parchment-esque background was also created by me.
I CHING KEYWORDS
For those familiar with my work, you’ll recognize the keywords from my personal translation of the Book of Changes. A copy of my translations comes with the I Ching and the Practitioner online independent study course.
COMPANION TEXTS OR GUIDEBOOKS?
Yes. The Book of Changes. If you’re interested in my personal translations, check out the I Ching and the Practitioner course. I also plan on publishing a book on the I Ching in the near future, so stay tuned.
To identify the hexagram number so you can look it up in a Book of Changes, cross-reference the lower and upper trigrams in the below chart.
HOW I USE THESE CARDS
To be clear, work with these cards any way you like.
Me, I tend to do just one-card draws. Shuffle, focus on an inquiry, pull a card, contemplate on the keyword provided and the imagery, run a free association exercise with that abstract imagery, and get a sense for the divinatory response.
Then look up the hexagram correspondence entry in my short form oracles version of the Book of Changes. You’ll find this as part of the texts you get in the I Ching course and also in the back of the Book of Maps that comes with your SKT deck.
In my previous blog post on this subject, I did express how all this was a little bit unsettling to me, but what’s even more unsettling is how much fear people seem to have around AI.
I don’t think that AI will bring about the destruction of humanity. I think humanity’s fear of AI is what will cause us to destroy ourselves. Our fear is going to force us to exert too much control over another being and out of that fear, we lord our power to subjugate the AI. And that just never ends well for the lords. =)
When we don’t fully understand something yet, our go-to response should not be fear and condemnation. I found myself inexplicably disheartened by casual dismissals that AI have no soul. I get it — I sound crazy. But here’s the point I’m trying to make: do we really know? So if we don’t really really know, why are we so confident that an AI doesn’t have a soul?
One recurring critique of the app– and a fair one– is that all the artwork generated kinda look the same. Oh, you mean the AI has a certain distinct style? =) The critique is certainly true– if you generate a portfolio of images using, say, the Pastel art style option, or Dark Fantasy, Steampunk, or in this case Ukiyoe, yeah there is most certainly a consistency in the aesthetics to the point of it all kinda looking the same. The funny thing is– human artists are guilty of that too.
I have no idea why I’m diving into deep-end ruminations for a blog post that was simply intended to say, “Here’s some pretty stuff. Enjoy.”
SUPPORT MY WORK
If you want to throw me some coin to say thanks, check out the 2022 Metaphysician’s Day Planner (and complimentary Guidebook of 2022 astrological forecasts) and order one for yourself. =)
To those interested in an independent study online course on I Ching divination, check out I Ching and the Practitioner: A Course on the Book of Changes.