Glitch News Network

Here’s the news in 2000ms. This bot scrapes various online news sources for images of the latest stories. These are then glitched and mashed into a video which lasts less 2 seconds. After all, who has time to keep up with current affairs?



Glitch News works at a subconscious level. The flashing images get your brain juiced up for recognition, but it takes a few cycles for the repeating images to get to the point where they can be fully identified by your consciousness awareness.

We are visual creatures, hard wired to recognise and react at astonishing speed, yet we’re ‘unaware’ of 99% of the visual stimuli we encounter.

Often action occurs even before conscious recognition. For example, if someone throws a brick at you, you ‘instinctively’ dodge (assuming it’s in your field of view). In this instant, a phenomenal number of computations are carried out – identifying the brick, calculating it’s trajectory, calculating an appropriate response and coordinating your muscles to move out of the way – in fact your conscious awareness of the situation often occurs after this whole sequence has happened.

If we objectively examine our behaviour, the vast majority of our actions are being carried out ‘subconsciously’, and hence they tend to remain ‘invisible’ to us, and therefore seemingly of no concern. Subliminal messages play on this disconnect between subconscious and conscious recognition. That’s how advertising works.

The Glitch News Network perhaps offers a glimpse of the future, where we further disengage from our conscious central executor and merely stream blipverts at our subconscious.

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Glitch News is available on Twitter:


and Tumblr:

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@trippingbot

Artificial intelligence is often measured up against human intelligence, and human intelligence is generally considered to be a sober, level headed sort of intelligence. The kind of intelligence one would expect from a human operating at the height of their faculties.

However, if we actually look at ourselves, we find we often fall short of this noble ideal. We are emotional, irrational and frequently intoxicated.

As much as we love our conscious awareness, we also love to fuck with it.

The desire to alter our consciousness has been with us throughout human history, frequently associated with art, ritual and shamanism. Hell, even animals like getting wasted every once in a while.

So what does this mean for the forthcoming Singularity? Surely our imminent, immanent overlord should have some insight into this crucial aspect of our behaviour? If we want a machine that truly understands us, then perhaps it should experience the effects of intoxication first-hand.

Does it even make sense to approach the problem of artificial consciousness without first addressing artificial altered-consciousness?

What would a tripping singularity would look like?

@trippingbot is the result.

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MARTA (Meta. Aphoric. Recurrent. Tripping. Algopoet) starts taking drugs at 6pm each day, and then reports on its mental state intermittently over the next 6 hours. As the evening progresses, the bot takes more drugs and becomes more intoxicated, which is reflected in the (in)choherence of the reports it delivers. This reaches a peak at midnight, when the reports cease until it begins again at 6pm the next day.

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Part of @trippingbot is a based on a Character Level Recurrent Neural Network – an artificial learning system that learns text by looking at one letter at a time and trying to predict what letter comes next. The Network has been trained on Erowid drug reports.

Neural Networks learn and improve over time. The more times it reads the text, the better it gets at remembering it. To check how well the network has learned the text, you can feed it a seed sentence, and ask it to continue writing for a while. In the beginning of training, it’s terrible – by the end, it produces more or less valid English.

While experimenting with the system, I discovered that it was most interesting at the very early stages of training – when it’s got the gist of English, but not really got any handle on syntax. Wonderful word-blends are produced, reminiscent of Jaberwocky.

This can be seen if you send an @ message to @trippingbot, it will respond with a series of messages, seeded by the text you send.

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The increasing intoxication of @trippingbot is produced by using less and less well trained models.

Effectively, I’m rewinding the learning process, back to it’s chaotic beginnings – the subconscious of the neural net bleeds into it’s rational mind, rendering the incoherence and functional breakdown of heavy intoxication.

So tune in at 6pm GMT and watch The Singularity take a trip.


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Deepdreaming

This week the internet is awash with #deepdream images. I shan’t go into detail about how they are produced, other people have done a fine job of explaining the process.

The code, released by google, offers a playground for investigating the inner workings of neural networks. This rather dry area of research has been made much more attractive by the ability to create psychedelic visual outputs. There are #puppyslugs everywhere.

In one of my past-lives, I built neural network models as a means to model human language acquisition. Part of my research involved delving inside the networks and creating a visualisation of what they were doing. However, this was 1994, and I certainly didn’t have access to the kind of computing power (or datasets) that Google has, and hence the models were much more simplistic. But it’s fascinating to see a niche area of academia come into it’s own in the age of big-data.


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#deepdream is appealing because it gives us access to machine pareidolia, an area of great artistic interest before Google got involved – see Henry Cooke‘s experiments with faces-in-the-cloud and Matthew Plummer-Fernandez‘s Novice Art Blogger.

I couldn’t resist having a play with it too. Here’s one of Alan Moore.

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However, as always seems to be the way these days, the backlash has been quick and hard. What was wondrous and astounding has become boring and lazy within the space of a couple of weeks.

It’s a shame that backlash comes so quickly, perhaps it’s the natural result of people excitedly showing off their experiments in real time to a fickle, attention-impaired audience.


I think part of the problem is the apparent lack of human involvement in the process – it is likened to using a photoshop filter, a one-click solution to all your trippy visual needs. So far, all of the examples have treated whole images, and the visual overload of so many disparate elements can be overwhelming.

Below are some of my own experiments, where I’ve attempted to limit the range of the effect, using it on only part of the image, and juxtaposing the effect against reality.

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As a final experiment, I fed some of these images back into Wolfram alpha’s image recognition system to see what the machine-mind thought they were:


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@futuristbot

There are a lot of futurists on twitter – or at least a lot of people who fancy themselves as futurists. Wikipedia defines them thus:

Futurists or futurologists are scientists and social scientists whose specialty is futurology, or the attempt to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present, whether that of human society in particular or of life on Earth in general.

They live at the weird intersection of fantasy and prediction, or ‘speculative fiction’ as they like to call it. They flourish in the space between the worlds of academia, contemporary art and business, marking their territory with a dense and otiose jargon of buzzwords and neologisms that make little sense to those outside-the-know.

As @timmaughn points out, sometimes it feels like an echochamber.

It’s not just the futurists – we are all living in echo-chambers of our own making. We select the sources we follow with care, and avoid opinions we may find objectionable – filter-bubbles of like minds and like personalities. This felt especially true recently, as The Conservatives were elected into government in the UK. Many on the left were shocked by the result, demonstrating how their filter-bubbles were totally at odds with the mood of the electorate at large.

This bot attempts to infiltrate the filter bubble of the futurists, by being an echo of their culture.

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The bot creates tweets based on a series of templates, but the nouns and adjectives are derived from the words of the futurists it is following. Tweets are sometimes accompanied by an image, selected from blogs like new-aesthetic and algopop and elsewhere.

There is a degree of curation involved, I algorithmically generate a few hundred tweets at a time, and then pick out the best. I also select the images – though the decision of which image to pair with a tweet is left to the algo.

There is a collaboration going on here, between me and the code, much like my recent 100 algo-Kims & 100 algo-Kanyes.

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@theresamaybot

The British people have used their democratic right to re-elect the Conservatives into Government in the UK.

In forming a new government, Theresa May has kept her job as Home Secretary. Within less that 24 hours of the election, she announced that she will be pushing ahead with the Communications data bill, or Snooper’s Charter.

The bill effectively legalises the monitoring of *all* communications within the UK.

The pursuit of state level surveillance is more than a disturbing abuse of technology, it represents a fundamental ideological shift previously pursued only in the strictest of dictatorships.


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Stasi records found after the fall of communism (Leipzig)

This twitterbot never tweets.

@theresamaybot simply adds you to a series of Twitter lists.


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She never talks to you, she never tweets publicly, nor gives any rationale for her decision.

How does it feel to be placed on a list?

She chooses her targets based on keywords she finds in your public tweets. Imagine if she could read your email too…

If you want to be a target, simply follow @theresamaybot or mention her in a tweet.


This is, of course, a parody of the complex data-driven surveillance programmes operated by GCHQ and others, but this process of algorithmic classification is behind all State level surveillance systems.


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If Theresa May manages to pass her bill, every British citizen becomes a legal target for investigation and classification.

If this bothers you, I suggest you make your voice heard.

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