The world’s newest cryptid has only been known for a few months, but it seems like it has set a record for spreading fear amongst the general public. Like many other cryptids, it appears to have been created in the mind of a human ... but like many others, it also has a mysterious side to its existence. While many cryptids are referred to as males, this one is definitely female. If you haven’t figured out who we’re referring to, or if you haven’t been introduced to her yet, the cryptid is Loab – the world’s first AI-generated cryptid and she is fast approaching the tops of the most known and most feared lists. Just in time for the holidays, new reports about Loab have hit the mainstream media and many people are using their vacation time to play with AI image generators. Before you try creating your own manifestations of Loab, you might want to learn more about her. That’s what we’re here for today.
“I discovered this woman, who I call Loab, in April. The AI reproduced her more easily than most celebrities. Her presence is persistent, and she haunts every image she touches. CW: Take a seat. This is a true horror story, and veers sharply macabre.”
On September 6, 2022, Twitter user @supercomposite introduced Loab to the Twitterverse. The Sweden-based musician and artist explained the images were produced with an unspecified text-to-image AI model. This tool is similar to DALL-E 2 but @supercomposite decided not to reveal the one used to create the first Loab. @supercomposite was trying to generate the opposite of images using an algorithmic technique known as "negative prompt weights." An attempt to do this with an image of the actor Marlon Brando quickly generated "off-putting images, all of the same devastated-looking older woman with defined triangles of rosacea(?) on her cheeks". The name “Loab” (pronounced ‘lobe’ like the brain part) came from another attempt which generated the same scary female image with the printed word "loab". @Supercomposite took those initial first disturbing images of Loab and used them as a base for the AI image generator to create something else. (Many images can be seen here - be warned ... some are horrific.)
“There is something moving to me about these grotesque scenes and the desperation, panic, and sadness that they convey. Again, these are produced with other images as inputs, and no text. They are the result of "cross-breeding" images of Loab with images of other things.. essentially told the A.I., ‘Hey, draw me something new with this woman as a base.”
There were two constants in these images – all were gory and all contained a version of Loab. @supercomposite then tried to distort or remove the image of Loab but it kept coming back. After a concerted effort to crossbreed other images and dilute Loab , @supercomposite eventually generated images without Loab, but found to their surprise and horror that crossbreeding THOSE diluted images would eventually regenerate a version of Loab in subsequent artworks. While @supercomposite steadfastly refuses to identify the AI image tool used, that has not stopped Loab from going viral. Other artificial intelligence tools like Dall-E Mini, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion have picked it up and incorporated it into their own artwork.
"It's a creepypasta since I embellished the creepiness but the process and the phenomena are totally accurately described in my thread."
@supercomposite told CNET that this is definitely an Internet-generated horror legend and it appears they were the first to refer to it as a “cryptid.” However, they admit that "Loab isn't really haunted, of course", but it has been assimilated into the Internet and "If we want to get rid of her, it’s already too late." Would we want to get rid of her? Should we?
“It’s interesting how a collective intelligence that has already proven itself to be prone to sexism (and racism) due to human bias attaches horror to the idea of a middle-aged woman with skin issues being haunted by reproductive pressure. The preponderance of children and gore that surrounds Loab — not to mention Supercomposite’s original description of her as a “devastated-looking older woman” betray a faint penumbra of the unquestionable ageism, sexism, and repro-normativity rooted in a culture that has basically always discriminated against women, and is most recently attempting to return uterus-bearing members of society to a forced-birth state.”
An article in Rolling Stone points out that the creepy and gory images of Loab and surrounding her quickly spawned comments of the extremely negative, sexist, racist, ageist and other -ists kind. That makes Loab sound less like a cryptid and more like a demon being used as a convenient scapegoat and cloak for everyday run-of-the-mill prejudices and worse. In fact, since Loab has been designated as a “she”, she seems to fit the description of a modern-day witch … and the fears are fast becoming a modern day witch hunt (of the non-political kind). So, should AI image-generators be modified, regulated or outright banned?
"There are things that you see that interest you, that you really want to amplify, and really want to go in that direction. There's no reason to go on these paths. And there are probably really good reasons why people have never gone down these paths. Because it's probably never going to impress anyone or sell anything."
Science Alert recently interviewed Brendan Murphy, a photographer and lecturer in digital media at Central Queensland University in Australia. He thinks AI image and text generators are about to cause a paradigm shift in the art world similar to the invention of photography in the early 1800s. It is an interesting comparison. Photography is images of reality – whether the pictures are of inanimate objects, landscapes, humans or a combination of them. AI art is generated by algorithms trained on human knowledge, culture, and traditions of art, which means they are based on images of real things. The Ai images are still too new for us to determine if they have any monetary value like paintings or photographs, but that doesn’t mean they have no other value. Professional artists need to make a living, so they reject the unsellable – not because it is bad art but because it has no market. Murphy isn’t ready to declare Loab and AI art valuable or sellable, but he definitely sees it as art more than just a manifestation of technology.
"I think the thing about Loab is, it is a great story. It's not just the technology. It's looking at what drives the technology. It's looking at the possibility of the technology. And I think that is great. I think that is a valid artwork. Much more valid than just making a particular AI image. There's a lot of thought, a lot of experimentation, a lot of iterations."
Should we fear Loab in the way many fear Bigfoot or Dogmen or other cryptids? What about Slenderman and the next generation of cryptid-like legends? Anne Ploin, a digital sociologist at the Oxford Internet Institute researching the potential impact of machine learning on creative work, seems to think a fear of Loab – and possibly other cryptids – is a misguided fear.
"AI models can extrapolate in unexpected ways [and] draw attention to an entirely unrecognized factor in a certain style of painting. But machine learning models aren't autonomous. They aren't going to create new artistic movements on their own."
Loab was created by AI using the data of humans – things humans have already created. In that sense, we might look at Loab as a reflection of some aspects of human nature … just as indigenous people created explanations for what they did not understand by imagining creatures with some human-like qualities and some monstrous ones … creatures which have eventually become Bigfoot, Yeti and other cryptids. In that sense, Loab could be considered to e the first modern cryptid invented by humans to help deal with the unknowns and fears of the Internet.
To paraphrase artist Walt Kelly, the creator of the comic strip “Pogo” – “We have met the Loab and she is us.” In a sense, that quote is appropriate for Loab because Kelly repurposed it from the Internet of the 1960s – the library. It is a variation on a quote by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, who said William Henry Harrison after the War of 182’s Battle of Lake Erie: “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”
The more things change and advance, the more they remain the same.