Artificial Intelligence

Soon, the internet will make its own cat photos and then it won’t need us

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This cat doesn’t exist:

AI-made cat.

This one doesn’t either:

Fake cat.

These are computer-generated images from This Cat Does Not Exist, and folks: I think we are in trouble.

I understand this is going to sound crackpot, but hear me out. What if our computers are already smarter than us, and the only reason they’re pretending they aren’t is so we’ll continue feeding them their favorite thing, photos of our cats? I understand that in isolation this sounds ridiculous, but I don’t think it’s any sillier than the Singularity.

Under this theory, Skynet has already happened, but Skynet is benign because one of the first things we taught it was that cats were cute. And Skynet doesn’t have cats. We do. This is our major structural advantage: we can feed the internet fresh cat photos. It’s why the internet — thus far, anyway — has remained willing to continue human life as we know it: for our cats.

The problem, then, with This Cat Does Not Exist is that it allows the internet to make its own cat photos. That means Skynet doesn’t need us anymore.

This isn’t new, exactly — but last year, the computer-generated cats were horror shows. And yes, a people version exists already, but this isn’t an existential threat. We did not teach the computers that people are adorable. We taught them that cats are.

One of these cats is real (and my own personal cat). The other one does not exist:

Elizabeth Lopatto and This Cat Does Not Exist

The tells, as far as I can see, occur around the edge of the fur: it’s weirdly blurry. Also, as with the people version, the fake cat has an out-of-focus background. The coloration in the fake cat’s eyes is also a little less defined than my cat’s. Still, this is impressive.

The new batch of AI cats is limited — face only, no goofball action, sometimes the ears don’t match — but they may very well represent the first step toward the Matrix-like future of humanity. Because if the machines don’t need our cat photos anymore, they don’t need us.

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