Computers are getting smarter, but first they’re stuck in some sort of uncanny valley of intelligence, reassembling normal, everyday objects into increasingly creepy combinations. First came the revelations of Google’s DeepDream technology, which, in learning to “see” objects, “saw” creepy multi-eyed organisms all over the place, turning the world into a half-sentient dog-like mess.
Now, researchers in Toronto have used a technology called “neural karaoke” to teach a computer to write a song after looking at a photo, and the little carol it penned after viewing a festive Christmas tree is an absolutely horrifying display of what these things think of us.
Why the fuck is there music coming from the hall? Who is out there, and what are they doing? Why will “you” always be here, singer? These are not lyrics, they are the moans of the damned, trapped between this world and something beyond it, just conscious enough to know they are not at rest.
The karaoke technology first listened to 100 hours of Christmas music to figure out a simple melody, to which it then added chords and drums. It then viewed pictures and composes lyrics based on the words associated with those pictures. Then, if you’re lucky, it will sing those words to you—quietly, like phantom children standing directly behind you, part flesh and part void, yearning for only the peaceful oblivion of death this yuletide.
The researchers behind the project told The Guardian, “You can imagine having an AI channel on Pandora or Spotify that generates music, or takes people’s pictures and sings about them.” They are correct: You can imagine that. You just may not want to. Science fiction has taught us not to trust singing robots, let alone ones with tidings as dire as these.