What happens when you run various photos of US President Donald Trump and his associates through a deep learning algorithm that’s looking for images from Sesame Street? Pure horror. Gaze upon the results and imagine the president’s voice saying, “No Muppet, no Muppet, you’re the Muppet!”
Images courtesy of Chris Rodley
Artist Chris Rodley recently uploaded these nightmare-inducing images to his Twitter. He explained in a message to Gizmodo that he simply used a free service called deepart.io, which utilises an algorithm developed by researchers back in 2015. “It was just lots of experimenting with tuning the ‘artistic style’,” he said.
“Deep learning” involves using algorithms to approximate a sort of rudimentary abstract thinking on the part of the computer. Google’s Deep Dream neural network is the most famous example. In Rodley’s case, the computer is “thinking” about Sesame Street while “looking” at Trump.
Of course, this isn’t the first example of people turning the powers of machine learning on Trump. DeepDrumpf is a Twitterbot that uses a neural network trained on his terrifying transcripts. And if you’re feeling especially masochistic today, you can watch a video of an entire Trump speech processed by Google’s Deep Dream. (We wouldn’t recommend it.)
The Sesame Street nightmare is particularly appropriate, however. Trump reportedly plans to privatise PBS, the longtime home of Sesame Street. He also apparently hopes to completely eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities. So, it’s probably a good thing that we’ve developed tech that can make our art for us, as horrifying as it is. We’re going to need it.