Gambling, click bait and AI art

posted in: Life and things | 0

The Melbourne Cup has been run and won, much to the chagrin of a bunch of activists who think horse racing should be banned. But I won’t give these people any more air time. What’s more important is gambling. Gambling is a huge industry and for a small group of people, it’s a destructive addiction. It’s much more than betting on the races, of course. You can bet on just about anything these days. Cane toad racing in Darwin and other northern parts, cockroach racing, two-flies-up-a-wall racing, who’ll hit the first six, take the first wicket, make the most runs etc. There are also lotteries, scratchies, pokies (scratch cards and one armed bandits for you non-Aussies) and online casinos.

Here in Queensland the hours between 5 and 7pm are saturated with ads for gambling apps like Sports Bet and Ladbrokes. Why anybody thinks Shaquille O’Neill and his bunch of comedic, weedy ‘Aussies’ is going to sell an app here is beyond my understanding. But then, I’m not even any good at marketing my own books. What these ads do is make kids think that gambling is okay, just another part of life.

Having recognised the harm gambling can do, the authorities here insist all these ads must include an admonition to ‘gamble responsibly’. Now, advertisers are going to have to use slogans instead. It’s a bit like the slogans on cigarette packs – ‘smoking kills’, ‘smoking causes cancer’ and the like.

The Sydney Morning Herald explains “The new taglines include: “Chances are you’re about to lose”; “Think. Is this a bet you really want to place?” ; “What’s gambling really costing you?” and “What are you prepared to lose today? Set a deposit limit”.”

I’ve got a better idea. Ban the ads altogether. People who want to gamble will find a way.

The biggest excitement in the news over the last few days was that five lions escaped from their enclosure at Taronga Park zoo in Sydney. Channel 9 News blared Guests told to run after five lions break free at Taronga zoo. Wow, that’s scary. Five lions roaming around the zoo! People forced to run for their lives! That’s terrible!

Or so you might believe. Let’s be clear here; this was lion Ato and four of his young cubs. They didn’t ‘break free’, they somehow got out of their main enclosure and went for a short walk. They were spotted outside their main enclosure but were still separated from the rest of the zoo by a six-foot (1.8-metre) fence. Four of them wandered back into their own area of their own volition. One cub was sedated and returned unharmed.

I’m not underestimating the seriousness of the situation. As one vet who treats them at Taronga said, lions see people as potential dinner. (Yes, I know some people have formed close friendships with lions, but that’s the exception.) But although it was a briefly tense situation the media blew the story up out of all proportion. I guess ‘five lions wander out of their main enclosure for twenty minutes’ doesn’t have much of a ring to it. And that’s the point I’m making. These days the media is so often about click bait. Everything is sensationalised. And if the story can’t offer a click bait headline it doesn’t get told.

If you’ve been here before you’ll know I’m playing with the art AI, Midjourney. There are some who say it’s not art. Others say it will destroy real artists. I’m not sure about either. It’s just another tool driven by the user’s imagination. Midjourney’s bot can come up with some stunning results for some subjects but for others, it’s – shall we say, not very good? In my experience, anyway.

For example, I asked for ‘an old man with a glass of brandy’ – which I later changed to ‘an old man holding a glass of brandy’.

Notice how the glass of brandy is almost as important as the man.

I asked for a rainbow lorikeet but after many, many iterations, I gave up. This was produced after many previous iterations.

They look like collections of fruit.

Here’s one effort I found particularly amusing. I asked for a French Dragoons officer. Dragoons are members of cavalry regiments but I knew better than to ask for a horse. This is the grid of four I was offered.

In all cases the helmets are terrible. I’ve never had a good helmet for any of my images. (What the helmet should look like.) The picture at bottom left intrigued me so I asked for a larger version. This what I got.

Well, as somebody pointed out, I did ask for a horseman

Here’s one more (because I can). I asked for ‘inside a waterside pub’. The bot thought that meant ‘water inside a pub’ for all of its offerings. Here’s one I thought might even be true in parts of NSW at the moment.

Midjourney is a very clever tool and it can come up with incredible results. But it has its limitations because of the complexity of language. I don’t think artists will find themselves out of a job any time soon.

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