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that seemed to contribute to my ongoing ideas of what may constitute a surprising transformation .
I anticipated being blown away by truly surprising results that were more novel and exciting than our own historical effects . At the time of writing ( spring 2022 ) the algorithm is still in progress , yet at every turn , I find myself diving deeper and deeper into the historic magic texts that I utilized in initial design research to train the algorithms . ( I wanted to only use historic magic catalogs , as I planned to have public conversation around this process and thus wanted to have text that did not include methods .)
So far , although some outputs have been intriguing , funny , and perhaps surprising , they all seem to lack the deep psychological nuance that the original magic effects in the catalogs reference . I have been continually inspired by the delicate psychology that was built and honed over hundreds of years by those in the field of magic .
Perhaps , as the algorithm I am working with my collaborators on gets trained further , it will prove me wrong . Time will tell .
Modern machine learning is a dance between the human and the non , the trained and the untrained , and the level of human intervention that allows for the rendering of new and certainly unexpected forms . Perhaps an unpopular opinion , but maybe machine learning is only a tool to help us get to the root of understanding our own humanity . By seeing where machine learning does and does not meet or confound our expectations , we can explore why we hold the beliefs that we do and if they are worth rethinking or leaning further into .
When I am met with a new algorithmically generated output of a magic effect , it prompts me to think deeply about why I find it less surprising , and if I were to perform it , what would make it more surprising . So perhaps , for now , machine learning is just that , a tool to help us investigate the beautiful history of our field and the subtle psychological underpinnings that we are lucky enough to play within .
A Note
I will be further investigating these ideas in my new performance and installation work , “ Taken by Artificial Surprise ,” which I will be debuting with CultureLAB in New York City in July of 2022 as part of an ongoing series of work exploring this topic . I also must note that this project was inspired by my time as an Affiliate at metaLAB at Harvard . During this time , I encountered a diversity of ideas and research , and discourse with metaLAB members also greatly assisted the ideation process . ■