Of Silmarillion Elves, Pavlova, and Motorcycles: Testing an AI

The internet is a wonderful thing sometimes. Yesterday, I ran across an AI program that generates images via prompt:

https://huggingface.co/spaces/dalle-mini/dalle-mini

So I have been doing the logical thing with it. Getting it to generate Silmarillion characters in bizarre situations. Morgoth playing golf, and so forth.

But one thing I have noticed: if a character is sufficiently obscure (in an internet image context), it won’t actually generate them. The result is rather hit or miss – and the threshold for obscure is pretty damned high, at least so far as The Silmarillion goes.

To illustrate, let us take the example of “Character X eating pavlova.” Why pavlova? Well, the AI actually recognises it, and it is my country’s national dish. Yay for Kiwiana.

Whom from The Silmarillion can we generate eating pavlova?

Morgoth:

Fingolfin:

Glorfindel:

Feanor:

Maedhros:

Celegorm:

Luthien:

Glaurung:

Turin Turambar:

Ancalagon:

And that’s it, so far as I can tell (trying Elrond, Galadriel, or Sauron would distort things, due to their appearances in The Lord of the Rings. By contrast, I think Glorfindel is sufficiently obscure).

Trying “Felagund eating pavlova”, “Manwe eating pavlova”, “Thingol eating pavlova,” Curufin eating pavlova,” or “Maglor eating pavlova” just generates images of actual pavlova… and I am honestly surprised about Felagund. I would have thought Finrod would have had a sufficiently large online footprint for the AI to take a stab at generating him. Ditto Maglor.

Because beneath the obvious silliness, this test actually serves a purpose. It’s really about how ubiquitous the imagery associated with the name actually is. Or I guess so anyway – I’m not the creator of the AI in question.

(This creates the strange irony that “Maedhros playing violin” will yield a better result than “Maglor playing violin”. Poor Maglor).

Let us now turn from pavlova to motorcycles. Here I have discovered something interesting. Typing the prompt “Feanor riding motorcycle” gives us, well, Feanor riding a motorcycle:

We are less fortunate when we type “Feanor motorcycle.” Here, as with the Maglor example, we just get an image of the object. In this case, a motorcycle with no Feanor.

But we do not have this problem with Maedhros.

“Maedhros riding motorcycle”…

“Maedhros motorcycle”…

This suggests an interesting hypothesis.

The online footprint of Maedhros might actually be more prominent than that of Feanor himself.

Possibly. I have no real insight into the inner working of the AI. But assuming it is scouring the internet for image associations, the notion that we have a stronger level of associations for Maedhros than Feanor might say something about The Silmarillion fandom and its creative output.

Addendum:

Speaking of what this says about The Silmarillion fandom, it actually turns out that the AI recognises Mairon, Sauron’s original name – which really does show what the internet can do with an otherwise obscure factoid. So once we add pavlova….

Mairon:

Addendum II:

I would like to take this opportunity to note “Maedhros swimming in blood” is seriously powerful:

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