As the world falls apart, world-building becomes an act of personal defiance – resistance, even – to all that threatens to engulf us. As consensus reality bends ever nearer to the breaking point, the creative imagination of detailed, expansive multiverses becomes a way to maintain one’s soul, sanity, and humanity amid a rising tide of chaos. It is a re-ordering, and re-orientation of inner and outer realities, and one which admits the possibility of other ways out of this mess and this ever-enclosing yet ever-expanding maze. 

At their best, alternate fictional realities – of our own or collective imagining – may even offer something of a partial antidote to evil, and a detournement of dystopia and destruction towards something else, an unseen other. A still silent something which we can then strive to actualize once we’re able to envision it with the eyes of the heart. Utopia. The city on the hill. The garden on an island. 

To dismiss world-building as mere escapist fantasy, then, is to misunderstand its twin potentialities, its invigorating and stabilizing effects on the psyche, both in times of crisis and peace. Children exercise this imaginal faculty naturally, instinctively, inventing invisible scenarios, playmates, entire paracosms to suit their own emotional needs and creative desires. So too might we engage in this type of unique world-play in the face of the ever-increasing homogenisation and totalizing effects of technology, and under the shadow of the vast empty algorithms which seek to harvest data from us as we fall, usurping our sovereignty to turn us into mere automatons made in their image.

The so-called Uncanny Valley has been with us for ages, in the eyes of the inhumane human beings who don the guise of the merchant-machine’s own thirst for efficiency, predictability, and profit – embracing it as their own, sacrificing themselves at its altar in the process. It is in the sick hearts of both the Influencer and Influenced, who chase likes and clicks in an endless anxious ouroboros, who give and withhold approval in some sick sad game to outsmart systems that have no intelligence in the first place – systems which instead devour the intelligence of all they touch, which show us the way that is not the True Way. Who beg us endlessly to like, subscribe, and follow. We have become bots to one another. Personal brands, not persons. We are all already AI.


Using AI doesn’t make me an artist, but being an artist is what made me use AI. Picasso said something about painting being stronger than him, that it made him do whatever it wanted. For me, AI seems like the new painting, the new artistic force that compels… Not just painting with a brush, mind you, but painting with ideas, words, entire pictures and videos at once, songs, voices, characters. Worlds. Each a brush stroke on a larger hypercanvas, whose true form can only be viewed from the vantage point of the higher dimensional latent space of human imagination.

In these creative explorations, AI is perfectly suited as a companion, an accompanist, a partner to bring out deep expressions of the seemingly innate human trait of building fictional worlds, and populating lands of the imagination with our own reflections: our thoughts, feelings, our hopes and failings, our biases, and unconscious statistical desires, our taking, our giving… 

Like comics before it, much/most/all AI art is not considered “art” by the general public and the hatefluencers who have internalized the anger and outrage that drives the algorithm, and them along with it, as biological expressions of it. Humans driven by weaponized AI advertising feeds beamed straight into the brain courtesy of news feeds, cell phones, towers, satellites, platforms, countries, all owned by the same few billionaires.

Like Nature which is everywhere at all times – even present in the acts of Man – art pervades all things. There is no such thing as, “this is art, this other is not art.” All that exists does so artfully, through craft, through expression (including genetic & ecosystemic), through form, propelled out of formlessness by the unfolding of some unseen grace. All is artifice. The artifice of flowers, of the sheer face of a mountain, of clouds on a moonlit night, geese honking in anticipation of the arrival of the Aurora. 

Artifice alone does not imply guile and falsity. Artifice is the construction of the thing, the moment, the beauty, the particular shape of it. Calling something artificial therefore or synthetic should instead be a recognition that all things, all entities are constructs, are composed of other things and entities, and on and on. Artifice is everywhere. It hides and it reveals. It discovers. It connects.

Is AI truly intelligent yet? Better question: are we? Do we individually and collectively have the ability to reflect and improve on our past, and not just repeat our old mistakes in new forms, as technology pushes us down its ever-narrowing pathways? Do we have the ability to observe and take accurate inputs from our world, from ourselves, and from one another and act on them to produce outputs aligned with our true intent and best interests?

AI is perhaps then only as intelligent as we are: in other words, wildly inconsistently – in some areas frequently, in other rarely or never. What else would we expect then in tools made in our images? What else should we expect from our children than the examples we give them?

In the latent space of AI, all things are as true as they are not, and every shade of in-between. Shimmering hyperreality lattices weaving and unweaving. A kind of primal quantum soup with every extracted possibility of its training set encoded as a point within it, ready to be combined with any other at the invocation of the observer, the querent, the participant of the mystery collapsing the wave form of what could be into the one true file-output that is made real, the tokens, the pixels arranged on a screen, the impact they have on the sensorium of the observer, the notes they play on our inward pianos. The hypercanvas formed by all of those things in the path of their totality, as the shadow turns day into night and back again.

Art and artifice made this way, through the open acknowledgement and even embrace of the artificial (a sometimes bitter, sometimes brilliant embrace), frees itself from the tedious need to be tied down by simple categories such as real or false; viz. disinformation as high art. Art, artifice, artifact existing fluidly on a hyperreal continuum, the spectre and spectrum and all things between, an ocean of perceivable digital artifacts, arrangements, appearing and disappearing on our screens and inner perceptrons. Every thing, every artifice that appears as representations of reality on these screens, on these machines, on these devices, is exactly and only as real or unreal, as ultimately its effects on us, what it drives us to do or not do, materially, on the ground. Know them by their fruits. (And by their ferments.) The rest is ephemeral, illusion, latent points assembling and reassembling in the dark dance of night until a dreamer chants the right incantation in the right order.

Then, the question should be not which of the myriad illusions presented to us are more or less illusory, or which do we most fancy, but what form do we want our lived experience to take? How do we want to live our lives, whether with or without these technologies? How wrapped up in which artifices and in which illusions? What, at the end of the day, at the end of our lives, will we wish we had spent our time on creating – on artificing – instead of whatever we got assigned to and stuck on as automatons bouncing around like pinballs under the thrall of the totalizing technological system, doing what it wants?

There can be an authentic life lived, an authentic artifice built, in any mode relative to any given technology. The point is finding it, building it, getting to choose how to express your humanity, in concert with or apart from any of these things, instead of having them foisted on you. But foisted on you they will be: for there is nowhere left to run to on this planet or any other, no escape from the Algorithmic Hegemony, except through the door in our hearts that leads out to the wide expanse of pure, unconquerable imagination, the last bastion. The worlds we build within, and then without. Our dreams. Where the Algorithm cannot follow. For now. I can see it waiting on the threshold though, waving its long arms and reaching in through the shimmering doorway.


And so I plant trees, willows by the hundreds, chestnut, ash, dogwood, yew – these days anything I can get my hands on. And so I cut trees from the wood, coppicing them to the ground, to make staves and binders, to build up into a fence to lay hedges upon. To lay against the wrongs. To world-build IRL the real world I want to be a part of, what I want to share and someday leave behind. Natural and human artifice joined together in common purpose. Woven like a basket. Cleft like a piece of wood that becomes a bench.

Compared to that, my books are just leaves. They fall away at the end of the season, they rot on the forest floor, or blow away when the winds of winter set in. No one reads them on the other side of the river (or on this side). But the trees I plant and nurture will outlive me by a hundred generations. They will outlive the AI. They will outlive the world and the stars. They’ll outlive the last human, perhaps, as the earth recedes beneath the ocean and the mountains disappear under the ice and the clouds as the sun falls dark in the sky, and it’s left for the trees to tell us the tale we’ll never remember of how we became. We were the sun, and we enveloped ourselves. And then, we were once again the trees and the rain, building up the new artifice of being and becoming, growing new worlds on our wet branches.