Tim Boucher

Questionable content, possibly linked

Dehumanizing AI Tech from Softbank removes emotional inflection from speech

This is one for the too messed up to be real but sadly is pile, via Slashdot:

SoftBank has developed AI voice-conversion technology aimed at reducing the psychological stress on call center operators by altering the voices of angry customers to sound calmer….

The technology does not change the wording, but the pitch and inflection of the voice is softened. For instance, a woman’s high-pitched voice is lowered in tone to sound less resonant. A man’s bass tone, which may be frightening, is raised to a higher pitch to sound softer.

According to the company, the biggest burdens on operators are hearing abusive language and being trapped in long conversations with customers who will not get off the line — such as when making persistent requests for apologies.

Obviously the next step will be to simply eliminate the human operators. And while I sympathize with the burden that support agents of all stripes carry, the more logical answer is making your service not suck so much, instead of simply shielding your human agents from having to handle the angry reactions of other humans who are angry because it sucks so much.

In fact, I think such a technology would likely impinge on the right to object – in jurisdictions that recognize related rights anyway. You might say well, they’re still objecting, they’re still being heard, after a fashion. But they’re not really. The object-y part of their objection is being stripped out, and buried. The human communication part, the expression of sentiment. Emotions are not something we should try to wipe out using technology because money.

It’s also only a matter of time before, I guess, police get to use this technology to avoid having to listen to the screams and pleas for help from the people they are “serving.”

AI “Author” Guy Memes

I could do these all night, or until they rate limit me: I uploaded a publicity picture of myself and workshopped with Dalle some different ideas to make me into a meme called AI “AUTHOR” GUY. They are pretty funny. I’m also seeing if I can crack Google SEO number one slot for “AI Author.” I bet I can, I’m already on the first page. Some samples below, but see the larger set at Imgur link above. Cheers.

Perplexity AI on the Quatria Theory

I was just looking around for examples of famous conspiracy theories that originated in Quebec. I believe that Project Blue Beam is likely to be one, in that Serge Monast seems to have been its inventor/discoverer (depending on your point of view). I didn’t find anything terribly new or interesting, so I asked Perplexity, which at first gave some really general results pulled from news sources of occurrences of conspiracy theory + Quebec in body text.

Then I started asking it about Blue Beam, and then finally about the Quatria Theory, since – technically – it largely originated in Quebec. I asked Perplexity in such a way that was pretty leading, something to the effect of “Didn’t the Quatria Theory originate in Quebec too?”

And it spit out this nicely polished LLM hallucination that I just adore:

You’re correct, the Quatria Theory or Quatria Conspiracy also originated in Quebec. Here are the key details about this conspiracy theory:

The Quatria Theory/Conspiracy

The Quatria Theory/Conspiracy is a Quebec-based conspiracy theory that claims the Earth is actually made up of four spheres or realms instead of just one. It was first proposed in the 1990s by Yvon Boudreau, a Quebec author and conspiracy theorist. According to Boudreau’s writings, the four realms are:

  1. The physical/material realm we inhabit
  2. An antimatter realm
  3. A realm of pure energy
  4. A realm of pure thought/consciousness

Boudreau claimed these four realms coexist and interact, with the higher realms able to influence and control the lower, material realm through psychic powers and advanced technology unknown to most humans. The theory alleges that a secret society of powerful individuals has knowledge of and access to these higher realms, allowing them to manipulate world events through mind control, weather manipulation, and other paranormal means in pursuit of a New World Order agenda.

While never gaining mainstream acceptance, the Quatria Theory found a following in some New Age and conspiracy circles in Quebec in the 1990s and 2000s. It blended ideas from quantum physics, ancient mythology, and various conspiracy theories about secret societies like the Illuminati. However, the theory has been widely dismissed by the scientific community as pseudoscience lacking any empirical evidence.

Critics have labeled it a complicated fantasy concocted to give a veneer of plausibility to long-standing conspiracy narratives about powerful cabals controlling humanity. So in summary, while not as well-known as theories like Project Blue Beam, the Quatria Conspiracy was another notable conspiracy originating from Quebec that attempted to merge fringe science, mysticism, and New World Order paranoia into an overarching narrative. Its creator Yvon Boudreau was an influential conspiracy theorist in the Quebec conspiracy milieu.

Reading this confused even me (a good sign), I was for a second like, wait, it’s actually Yvon Boudreau who invented this in the 90s?? I literally googled it just to make sure haha. But how can I know Google isn’t lying to me too? Top of the line AI technology, right here! What a cool future…

Notes on The Quatria Conspiracy (French Version)

So, in preparation for the launch of the French-language version of the book that kick-started much of the series that later became the AI Lore books, I wanted to do a “Notes on” piece for The Quatria Conspiracy. The French version is going to be called La Conspiration Quatria. In fact, you can peruse the publisher’s product page for it here.

The book is 96 pages in A6 format (about the size of a cell phone, give or take – I wouldn’t know cause I don’t have one). From the publisher’s website:


Au cœur de notre passé lointain, enfoui sous les strates du temps, se cache un secret extraordinaire : l’existence d’une civilisation maritime oubliée, Quatria. Originaire d’un Antarctique paradisiaque, jadis havre de paix verdoyant, les énigmatiques quatriens dominaient les technologies de l’énergie cymatique et du voyage dimensionnel. Vivant en symbiose avec l’ensemble du vivant, ils ont bâti une société harmonieuse, jusqu’à ce qu’une série de cataclysmes planétaires d’ampleur inouïe vienne fragiliser leur civilisation, puis l’anéantir. Leur existence, dissimulée avec soin au cours des millénaires, est aujourd’hui révélée au grand jour pour la première fois, dévoilant un pan oublié de l’histoire de l’humanité.

Note de l’éditeur

Les Livres Mobiles sont une offre spéciale des éditions Typophilia, qui explorent les limites de la narration et de l’hyperréalité en utilisant conjointement les intelligences artificielles génératives et la créativité humaine. Dans le confort d’un petit livre de la taille de votre téléphone portable, voyez-les comme des livres anti-numériques.

It’s fun to see this come to fruition as I wrote this book some three years ago or so, before I started seriously exploring how I could integrate AI into my writing. That was a practice & also technology that would only mature about a year later when I started the AI Lore books in earnest.

So, technically, the original version of this book has no AI-assisted writing, which is another reason why it is numbered as #0 in this series. It’s the precursor which paints in broad strokes on the canvas of the mind using as colors other popular conspiracy theories, and dribs and drabs of legends and “cool ideas” picked up from here and there, and glued together into the Frankenstein monster that is the Quatria Conspiracy.

Much of it revolves around something I’ve been calling the Quatria Theory, which I made numerous weird bad AI videos for over the past few years, and here is just one short one to kick off the conversation:

The Quatria Theory posits, in short, that a prehistoric lost seafaring culture spread all around the globe from its base in Antarctica millions of years ago when it was a green paradise near the Equator.

Sounds far fetched? Well, enough people seem to have taken it to be true that multiple media outlets have taken it upon themselves to fact-check that related AI-images I made in this vein (for subsequent books) were not in fact depicting this very same lost civilization. OR WERE THEY AND IT’S ALL A BIG COVER UP??

Those are exactly the kinds of sometimes serious sometimes stupid rabbitholes that this book and the series where I used AI to elaborate on a lot of what started in this book pushes the reader into. It’s… not intended to be super serious writing. It is trashy, pulpy, throwaway, and fun in the way those things can be fun.

The original English version exists still as an ebook only. There are no images included in that version (though I might do an update sometime), but the French print-only version does have images. I’m not sure offhand how many, but I would call it a “copious” quantity. Many of the images are very pulp inspired. Like this example that I love:

These were all done in Dalle, asking for images in pulp sci fi styles. And it really nails some of them. The art in this book stylistically is really different than in most of the later volumes, which are generally more in the photographic direction (though not all). And that’s fine, because each book is its own reflection of conditions of its making. They are in a way their own meta-historical documents.

If I’m being totally honest though, the true origin of The Quatria Conspiracy is actually my first (only) full-length conventionally-written (no AI) novel, The Lost Direction. That book is epic fantasy, heavy on the world-building, makes use of frame stories to tell many smaller character’s tales throughout. Not many people read it. Not all the ones that did liked it.

In any event, the Quatria Conspiracy takes the more fictionally-framed elements of the novel, and re-casts them as quasi/pseudo-historical “non-fiction” – largely invented, cobbled together with other “real” conspiracy theories, and again heavy heavy dose of world-building. Some would say too much. In fact, there’s no plot. It literally, as they say in the Literary Review of Canada article linked above, “reads like a textbook.” This time intentionally. This time leaning into the very opposite of the writers’ dictum that one must “show don’t tell.” This book tells, but now it has some fun pictures to do the showing too. And they really help set the mood in the French version. It’s great. I have a strong feeling it’s going to be a fun little book to hold in your hand, and like, read under the covers with a flashlight.

There’s probably a great deal more to say about this book, and some of the origins of the idea of Quatria and its major personages and metadivinities in the Early Clues, LLC oeuvre… but I’ll save that all for another time.

Referenced by Authors Alliance

Somehow this October 2023 reference to my work by Authors Alliance (who I spoke with once by Zoom and liked!) slipped through the cracks until today, so saving for the archives here:

Tim Boucher, a science fiction writer and artist, has used generative AI to create a series of nearly 100 science fiction books. He has experimented with different forms of “collaboration” with generative AI systems—from using them for ideation to using them to produce first drafts, to using them for late-stage editing. He has also used generative AI systems to produce text he uses as speech for characters in his works which are themselves AI entities. Boucher does not see his works as prototypical novels with a conventional narrative arc, but as nonlinear works with “interlocking pieces,” or “slice of life stories,” which lend themselves to the sometimes fragmented and dreamlike nature of generative AI systems’ outputs.

That’s a very stylistically accurate description of my work, I think.

And later:

Tim Boucher also uses generative AI systems to produce images that accompany his stories. While Boucher is a graphic artist himself, he has said that the time and cost involved in creating these illustrations by hand would severely limit the amount of time he could spend writing, and would make his project too cost-prohibitive.

The document overall is an interesting read and appears to have been submitted in response to the US Copyright Office public inquiry regarding Artificial Intelligence, which I also separately submitted my own response to.

Typophilia Launch

I’ve been teasing references to this for a while now, but it is now finally official, the website of Typophilia, my print publisher in France, is now live. It has been fun working with them behind the scenes to translate all of my books and publish them for French audiences, since January. They really get my vision of using AI to critique (and satirize) AI, and society’s relationship with technology more broadly. The print versions of the books are really well designed to capture the pulp sci fi serial feel I have been emulating, and are going to look sharp in print.

We’re starting with French version of The Quatria Conspiracy as book #0 because it is effectively the origin for a lot of what followed in the later AI Lore Books series. English readers can still purchase ebook versions on Gumroad (not sold anywhere else), but no print yet.

As we get rolling, I will try to go back through and write a “Notes on” piece for each volume, as I found the process of writing those – which I only commenced maybe half or two thirds of the way in – really helpful for my own reflection if nothing else. I don’t want to give away all the whatzits in each volume, because it’s best if readers form their own conclusions about what’s going on. But it’s fun to be able to give selective sign posts along the way.

Anyway, big thank you and congratulations to everyone at Typophilia, and looking forward to where we can take this adventure together!

Crazy Amazon Products, Vol. 2

I couldn’t stop with these the other day – that is, until I was rate-limited by Dalle. I swear, I don’t even know why I pay for these tools anymore that don’t let me do what I want or need when I want or need it. But complaining aside, these fake Amazon product images (archived) are nothing short of incredible. I’d love to see an entire coffee-table book of these…

Click the link above for the full image set. Here are some samples:

These images so perfectly encapsulate so many of my… feelings, it’s amazing. Check out the full image set linked above.

Amazon Weird Products Image Set (Dalle)

Got some incredible results out of Dalle tonight, which I compiled into into an Imgur post here (archived). I asked Dalle to depict product images from Amazon with incomprehensible, unnecessary and other just generally bad ideas.

Couple highlights here, but click link above for the full set:

Looking through that set, I honestly can’t tell a lot of these aren’t real, because Amazon is such a wasteland of pseudo-English words and cheap crap, it’s more real than reality, it’s hyperreality from a parallel hell dimension that undulates at a quantum level orthogonally intersecting and de-intersecting our reality continuously…

As a bit of a rant: I’ve consistently experienced a really annoying behavior using Dalle, which I pay a monthly fee to use. It goes like this: just when I’m having really good image results, going on an incredible streak of basically perfect images accurately and creatively reflecting my inner vision, and I’m getting into that kind of “flow state” that is so essentially to good deep artistic exploration and creation, I start getting rate limited. Which puts a dent in that buzz, and basically in short order puts an end to whatever winning streak I was on.

As an artist trying to use this product to make art, and paying for it, the system needs to get out of my way and do the things I’m paying it to do, not try to break my balls when I’m on a roll.

AI-Assisted Painting Experiments

This is a not great quality picture of it, but I recently finished a painting inspired by the head of Hygeia in the National Archaelogical Museum in Athens.

There’s an underlying drawing I did of the subject from memory based on other studies I did by hand. I took this and projected the photo of the drawing onto my canvas:

It’s not an incredible drawing but was good enough to get the shapes in. But It didn’t end up seeming right and I painted over it a good bit, and sort of fragmented the features in a pseudo-neo cubist inspired thing. But didn’t end up liking that enough, so took a gamble on another projected image, one made by Dalle while trying to get it to reproduce something in the style of the original Hygeia museum piece.

This is my second time using AI in conjunction with a physical painting. But the last one was a reference image that I just based my own drawing off of freehand. This is the first time trying to overlay directly onto the canvas via tracing off a projection.

It’s gotten me thinking lots of crazy thoughts about how to potentially integrate AI tools into actual physical painting (and other art-making). Like what if I could hook my projector up to a generative AI which is being periodically fed webcam images of the latest state of my IRL canvas. And then it could automatically or when I ask it, suggest next brushstrokes or propose visual alterations, styles, directions I might explore. And these would be projected as overlaid suggestions on my canvas, which I could then “accept” or reject or whatever by painting them in myself in my own way.

It would be something like a camera lucida with an AI in the loop:

This train of thought sent me down a deep deep rabbit hole about early and possibly secret use of optics my artists going back to the 1400’s possibly, according to the Hockney-Falco thesis. You can see a great BBC documentary on Hockney’s theories, and he’s got a book about it I haven’t read called Secret Knowledge. Here’s a Youtube embed:

Another related one that’s worth watching is Tim’s Vermeer which goes on a similar track of trying to prove Vermeer used a similar method with mirrors and something something. Pretty fascinating all around.

I found there’s a business trying to market the “Vermirror,” or as others have called it more generically, the comparator mirror. From what I can tell, the trick is basically getting a first surface or front surface mirror, which is brighter and reflects on its front face instead of its back face. And it’s held by some kind of rigid arm to keep it in the correct position relative to your work surface and subject. This video of art students using them gives a good idea of how it works:

I’ve currently got on order some bits and bobs that I will finagle together into being something like this. The advantage to using the mirror is that unlike when you project directly onto your canvas, you can still see the colors you’re mixing. They aren’t washed out or modified by the projected image.

Anyway I tried to get Dalle to generate a patent-style drawing of what a contraption like this might look like, where a combination projector & web cam capture images of a canvas, send it for processing, and send back suggested next strokes. It’s a little wonky and disconnected, but it shows some fun relationships nonetheless, and it lets the mind wander a bit looking at it, thinking about the possibilities.

I actually tried getting Dalle to do this task:

  • Take my painting image as input
  • Reproduce the image with suggested modifications

But it doesn’t seem able to reproduce an image, let alone modify it.

So then I had the idea of like okay:

  • From the input image, make a verbal description of what you would change.
  • It was able to do that no problem.
  • Then I said, okay take the changes you would make based on your verbal description, and draw them on a new image which can be used as overlay to guide painting in changes on the original image

But nope, that didn’t work. It got stuck in a loop of thinking it was helping me and linking to non-existent Imgur images. So that’s a little disappointing, but I think there’s something here. I just have to figure out the right pathway with the right tools to get to it. And Dalle is probably not the one for this, currently.

I did manage to get one image set out of this when I was asking for overlays for how it would modify the original. It gave me this:

It’s not really what I had in mind by overlay and suggesting brush strokes at a micro-level that is in line with the style of the original input image. But I did notice that when I scaled it and rotated it a little, it’s actually fairly close to many of the major facial landmarks:

Obviously the neck and ear arrangements are different, but there’s a lot of match here, even though I don’t agree at all with the stylistic direction. But also that’s kind of the point of a collaboration too, that you both bring in completely different ideas and references and impulses. So maybe there is value to exploring in this part of the liminal latent/real image space…

One final thought on that note, from a Guardian 2014 piece criticizing the Vermeer documentary, I think quite wrongly:

The film is a depressing attempt to reduce genius to a trick. […]

The technology Jenison relies on can replicate art, but it does so synthetically, with no understanding of art’s inner life. The “Vermeer” it spits out is a stillborn simulacrum.

Love it or leave it, but we live in a world where the simulation in many cases is more “real” in some aspects than the so-called Real. And this notion that studying how this might work is somehow “cheating” or a “trick” itself to me completely misses the boat on what art is: it’s artifice upon artifice, and somehow through that, finding authenticity despite everything.

Vat-Bundles & Overwrite Mode

Via another link from Futurism.com:

“Switzerland-based startup FinalSpark claims to have built a unique computer processor made from 16 mini brains made from human brain tissue, Tom’s Hardware reports — and they are positioning this “living computer” as an alternative to silicon-based computing.

And now, other researchers can remotely access the startup’s biocomputer, the Neuroplatform, to conduct studies on, say, artificial intelligence, which typically requires enormous resources.

One of the biggest advantages of biological computing is that neurons compute information with much less energy than digital computers,” FinalSpark scientist and strategic advisor Ewelina Kurtys wrote in a company blog post earlier this month. “It is estimated that living neurons can use over 1 million times less energy than the current digital processors we use.”

First of all, I have pretty much an entire book about this exact concept, which I refer to as “vat bundles” and which is discussed extensively in The Abomination Crisis (quote below). This is one of the luxuries that comes with having put out so many books, is eventually you have covered a broad range of stuff, and you can do exactly this and say, Oh, yeah, I have a book about that…

“They were termed “vat-bundles” to avoid legal complications with regards to the grey areas around cloning, reproductive, and human rights. Given that they were literally bundles of nerves grown in a vat solution – which could either live there for an indeterminate period in that form, or be inserted into biological or cybernetic organisms – the naming stuck in popular use.”

There’s also a theme/story device I use in a number of the AI Lore books, especially the Topia Books, where people can temporarily or permanently have their personalities taken over and controlled remotely in a kind of overwrite mode. In the books, there are references to being able to watch movies or play games somehow internally during overwrite sessions, while your body is put through random tasks by the AI systems which control society.

I’d always assumed I guess that what the AIs did with your body was mostly “physbod” tasks (physical body or ‘real’ work), but the item about FinalSpark’s supposed real life vat-bundles makes me think that maybe also the AIs during these sessions use the human brains as distributed biological processing nodes – sort of a human cloud server writ large. Makes sense if you think about it…

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