Pareidolia, Google Deep Dream, Wittgenstein’s Aspect Seeing, and Friedrich Nietzsche

The below YouTube video on Google Deep Dream strikes me as an important reflection, not just on artificial intelligence and art, but on the human condition in the sense that pareidolia (projecting images, moods, ideas onto things) is far more pervasive in us than in the most trivial examples (seeing Jesus in a piece of toast, a face on Mars, etc.). Pareidolia is, in fact, the way we habitually draw out and amplify signals from the noise of our existence, seeing aspects one at a time–first this, then that–akin to Wittgenstein’s famous rabbit-duck drawing, in which one sees a rabbit or a duck–or one, then the other, in alternation–but not both at the same time. And the aspects we see become habitual, bringing us to confirmation biases–akin to how Google Deep Dream works.

Nietzsche too thought we were all under the spell of a dream–that dream being the metaphysics inherent in human language, as when we deploy, say, an adjective to designate what aspect we will see as “essential” about a noun (mean bear, frightening cat,  providential star, etc.). Indeed, for Nietzsche, the noun itself is grounded in a deluded metaphysics of ahistoric stability and autonomy that doesn’t actually exist–and the verb gives the noun “causal powers” it doesn’t actually possess, as in the sentence, The man muscled his way to the front of the line.

And so, to abuse Shakespeare a bit in the service of Nietzsche, and far less sonorously: “The adjective, dear Brutus, is not in the thing / But in ourselves, that we are imaginative creators, judgers, projectors, and amplifiers of images, moods, ideas.” (Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III, L. 140-141).*

In other words, we are artists.


*Shakspeare’s actual quote: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
This entry was posted in aesthetics, atheism, atomism, beauty, david hume, edward feser, God, Lucretius, meditation, philosophy, poetry, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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