Are there ghosts in our machines? Well, of course not, but a recent viral Twitter thread might have you believing there is something sinister lurking behind your computer screen, just waiting to be unleashed. 

On Sept. 6, the internet was introduced to “Loab,” an apparently AI-generated “woman.” The internet promptly began calling her “the first cryptid of latent space,” “creepy,” a “demon” and “a queer icon.” There’s a lot going on here, so let’s explain. 

First, to understand Loab, you need to understand what’s happening in AI art.

AI art is here In the past few months, AI art — that is, art generated by artificial intelligence tools — has skyrocketed to prominence thanks to the proliferation of tools like Dall-E Mini, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion. These programs let users punch in a short phrase, a “prompt,” which the AI interprets to create an image. Going from prompt to image takes a few minutes, at most, and images range from downright disturbing to whimsically beautiful to “wait, an AI did this?” 

In early September, a video game designer won a Colorado art competition with a piece generated by Midjourney. The prominence of AI art, and stories like the art competition, have led to a crisis for artists and designers, with some suggesting it has created “an ethical and copyright black hole.” This is because the AI generates new images based on a mammoth amount of real art, created by human beings, that it’s been trained on.

The AI is not just taking old images and reworking them as new images, though; there’s a lot m
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