Beyond the Wall of Sleep with Google Deep Dream
Philip K. Dick once pondered if androids dream of electric sheep. Despite our advances in transhumanism, we still have no answer for that question. However, thanks to the Google Deep Dream artificial neural networks, we may be getting a bit closer. As it turns out, computers do appear to dream of sheep and other animals, albeit warped in a distinctly Lovecraftian fashion. So what happens when you feed the neural network a metal album cover as a base image? Find out below.
Artificial neural networks are statistical learning models that use complex algorithms to assess and interpret various processes. They’re often used for identification or data mining, with applications in such disparate fields as traffic crash data analysis and medical trend testing. Google uses neural net models to train their image search algorithms, but the tech giant has recently reversed the functions of the neural networks in a process known as inceptionism where they allow their servers to analyze and interpret patterns in existing images. Horizons often get shifted into pagodas, trees into buildings, and leaves into birds and insects, with myriad other patterns emerging as well. However, the images are typical vague, much like the way our developing minds undergo pareidolia and identify faces and animals in clouds and wallpaper. In essence, when the neural nets are allowed to dream over an existing image, the algorithms modify the image into a new and surreal piece of art.
Lacertilian and I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see what sort of nightmares were produced if the Deep Dream neural networks were fed heavy metal album covers. The results do not disappoint. Together, we’re acting as Charon, ferrying you through the somnambulant inferno of electric sleep. Allow Black Sabbath‘s “Behind the Wall of Sleep” to be your soundtrack to the night terrors.
“Much depends on what people dream in the secrecy of their hearts. I have always been as concerned with the shaping of dreams as with the shaping of actions.” – Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune
“Cold be hand and heart and bone,
and cold be sleep under stone:
never more to wake on stony bed,
never, till the Sun fails and the Moon is dead.
In the black wind the stars shall die,
and still on gold here let them lie,
till the dark lord lifts his hand
over dead sea and withered land.”
– J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“Dreams surely are difficult, confusing, and not everything in them is brought to pass for mankind. For fleeting dreams have two gates: one is fashioned of horn and one of ivory. Those which pass through the one of sawn ivory are deceptive, bringing tidings which come to nought, but those which issue from the one of polished horn bring true results when a mortal sees them.” – Homer, The Odyssey
“The man who lies asleep will never waken fame, and his desire and all his life drift past him like a dream, and the traces of his memory fade from time like smoke in air, or ripples on a stream.” – Dante Aligheri, The Divine Comedy
“The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.”
– John Milton, Paradise Lost
“Suddenly, I viddied what I had to do, and what I had wanted to do, and that was to do myself in; to snuff it, to blast off for ever out of this wicked, cruel world. One moment of pain perhaps and, then, sleep forever, and ever and ever.” – Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
“She had dreamed that she lay beneath a spreading tree somewhere, a tree that whispered with ten thousand soft lips of green; and the dream continued for a moment even after waking.” – Algernon Blackwood, Tales of the Uncanny and Supernatural
“No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence–that which makes its truth, its meaning–its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream–alone.” – Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
“And he lighted down from his horse, and took me by the arms with both his hands, and said, ‘If a man dream, to speak with dead men betokens profit. And art not thou of the dead, O Brandoch Daha?” – E. R. Eddison, The Worm Ouroboros
“I still get nightmares. In fact, I get them so often I should be used to them by now. I’m not. No one ever really gets used to nightmares.” – Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves
“Oh, the terrible struggle that I have had against sleep so often of late; the pain of the sleeplessness, or the pain of the fear of sleep, and with such unknown horror as it has for me! How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.” – Bram Stoker, Dracula
“The ability to dream is all I have to give. That is my responsibility; that is my burden. And even I grow tired.” – Harlan Ellison, Stalking the Nightmare
“The scariest, most terrifying thing that I fear?”
I thought you were going to say “Fear, itself.”
Then you have a small imagination.”
– Stephen King, The Dark Tower
“We are all eaters of souls.” – Dan Simmons, The Terror
“Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee, as for the time it did me. There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness.” Herman Melville, Moby Dick
“Maybe I’ll go where I can see stars, he said to himself as the car gained velocity and altitude; it headed away from San Francisco, toward the uninhabited desolation to the north. To the place where no living thing would go. Not unless it felt that the end had come.” – Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
“I have frequently wondered if the majority of mankind ever pause to reflect upon the occasionally titanic significance of dreams, and of the obscure world to which they belong. Whilst the greater number of our nocturnal visions are perhaps no more than faint and fantastic reflections of our waking experiences—Freud to the contrary with his puerile symbolism—there are still a certain remainder whose immundane and ethereal character permits of no ordinary interpretation, and whose vaguely exciting and disquieting effect suggests possible minute glimpses into a sphere of mental existence no less important than physical life, yet separated from that life by an all but impassable barrier. From my experience I cannot doubt but that man, when lost to terrestrial consciousness, is indeed sojourning in another and uncorporeal life of far different nature from the life we know; and of which only the slightest and most indistinct memories linger after waking. From those blurred and fragmentary memories we may infer much, yet prove little. We may guess that in dreams life, matter, and vitality, as the earth knows such things, are not necessarily constant; and that time and space do not exist as our waking selves comprehend them. Sometimes I believe that this less material life is our truer life, and that our vain presence on the terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon.” – H. P. Lovecraft, Beyond the Wall of Sleep
Thanks to everyone who gave us suggestions for albums to submit. I hope you’ve enjoyed this view into the surreal world of artificial dreams. If you’d like to create you own slice of digital nightmare, submit an album to the servers of the Psychic VR Lab.
(All Photos Modified Courtesy of the Psychic VR Lab)