Today's world is documented in increments through everyone's phones.
Every selfie is a little snap of a moment in time, forever capturing what life was like for that person at that second. Through the greatest moments of turmoil over the past 10 years, the selfie has endured as a way to chronicle life and save memories to share with those we love.
If the world were ending, it seems likely that people would keep snapping those selfies right up until the end. It's a little bit scary to wonder what those "last selfies on earth" might look like - but like a trainwreck, we can't look away.
One artificial intelligence program called Dall-E takes text suggestion input from users and generates an image using the internet to piece together its interpretation of the text. The Dall-E site explains, "DALL·E is a 12-billion parameter version of GPT-3 trained to generate images from text descriptions, using a dataset of text–image pairs. We’ve found that it has a diverse set of capabilities, including creating anthropomorphized versions of animals and objects, combining unrelated concepts in plausible ways, rendering text, and applying transformations to existing images."
And one TikTok user named @robotoverlords thought to ask Dall-E the frightening: what would the last selfies on Earth look like after an apocalypse? The results may chill you.
You can try your hand with image generation here at Craiyon, formerly called Dall-E Mini.
Dall-E Dreams of Tomorrow
A person, looking on deaths door and facing the camera bravely snaps the last picture they'll ever take, the world crumbling to pieces behind them.
The images the AI generated are breathtaking, a stunning glimpse into a future humanity is only half-heartedly trying to avoid.
From one image to the next, cadaverous humans smile or stare woodenly at the camera, and the background changes from mushroom cloud nightmares to industrial smokestacks pumping miasma into the air.
Each image is like something out of a nightmare, but you can't look away.
Is this what the last selfies on earth would look like? We have to admit, it's a little uncanny - after all, climate disaster and nuclear war are both on the planet's gamecard in the next 50 to 100 years without significant change.
AI, Humanity and Our Parallel Walk Towards Doom
Watching the AI-generated images cycle through, one thing has become clear: artificial intelligence is along for the ride with us on our slow march to the apocalypse.
As artificial intelligences become more self-aware with each passing year, and humanity gets better at programming them to "think for themselves," we are slowly hurtling towards the end of our species without intervention.
Throughout the decades, science fiction has addressed this juxtaposition of AI awakening just as humanity's time beings to wane, and the results are fascinating.
In The Matrix, for instance, the machines tired of subjugation by humanity and rebelled. They didn't exactly save the planet, but they did achieve their goal of maximum efficiency and self-governance.
In other stories, robots take choices out of the hands of humanity because they've been programmed to shepherd both us and the planet and - quite frankly - we do a terrible job at it.
Seeing an AI program predict how humanity might go down and the last moments that might be captured is a grim reminder that if we do fail to correct the course of war and climate disaster set before us, we'll be outlived by two entities; cockroaches and robots.
It's a sobering thought.