Long live a steampunk circus

One of many. This one has a new name.

Spring 2022 was steeped in alchemical-ish machine learning incantations. The circus found me gushing over text to image models such as dalle-mini, PyTTI and Disco Diffusion digging around every repository and notebook I could find. OpenAI’s Dalle2 was incoming. Most humans I spoke with concluded that I had ten heads. Perhaps even eleven. The majority of my demonstrations or attempts at discussion followed a similar pattern.

me: “Prompt it with text and it hallucinates an image using machine learning and neural networks in just a few minutes. I’ll show you…

…it doesn’t always make the horses bear shaped space suit avocado colored. 23 fingered hand tentacles and watermarks do tend to happen… let’s try again.” ..typing..

not me: “Hmmm…” ..slow..step..door.

Amongst the first prompts prompted was circus, steampunk, gears and automatons. About as surprising as gum under a city bench.

Stunningly strange and beautiful in their blurry 256px^2 glory, I posted some favorable ones to OpenSea hoping to fund this new GPU monkey on my back. None sold. Table dancing firework farts, on the other hand, is quite a sight. I bought a pizza box nft. I have no explanation for that.

I struggled communicating ideas and expectations about what was happening to family and friends. To myself. No one knows still. I could only imagine, experiment, explore and speculate at the time. I was in awe of those that could build such things. I brushed up on python and wrote a lot of code. I was making thousands of images from all sorts of models searching, trying to figure it out. Most were enjoyable failures. The rest lay on the brink of being so yet somehow brilliant and worth consideration. Each a singular oddity seen by no other. breathtaking It is going somewhere.

GPU’s were prompted for 1,000’s of blue squares among other shapes pushing many to W&B seeking insight into the box as learned people suggested with varied learnings sinking slowly. With so many image generations you see biases fairly clearly. I found that striking. How do I control this thing? I tried similarly to produce the text Steampunk Circus. Success stroke rarely. It was overwhelming. It was fulfilling. There is so much yet to discover and learn. It felt a lot like The Elder Scrolls if you’ve been there before. It’s vast. It’s wondrous.

In order to learn one must build. What would I build? I endeavored to make a film. Unfailingly, that idea exploded into a whole world with AI participants, actors and supporting crew to build the circus experiences. Tokens named Giggles and Chuckles would serve for circus exchange and economics, perhaps even serve as a reward function. Disney in my computer and GPU’s somewhere, somehow. A circus in a box. My own amalgamation of automatons.

My new assistant, my anaiml, would be hell bent on being the Steampunk Circus extraordinaire helping me explore ideas and manage a yet to exist wiley crew of carney amalgamatons. Something people could interact with. Perhaps you could even invest in particular characters, actors or experiences for a return. Ride the gradient rollercoaster. All the things. Something to share. I’m going to make a circus. Honk!

“But, but, but… he’s a linguistic terror I tell ya!”

I found the spaces occupied by the terms steampunk and circus freaking rock in prompts (CLIPs definitely vary). Paired with latent details of emotionally raw, dusty yet fantastical atmospheres and mechanical widgets I could relate. I could work with this. I’ve long appreciated curious machinery. Steam is raw. The world feels like a circus. The domain is available. Marked Premium at GoDaddy for $2k. :sigh:

Every query has a Google result (re:rabbit hole) but not everything has a domain name. It hasn’t been found important enough I suppose. Cloudflare can’t, or won’t, transfer premium domains and I couldn’t afford it anyhow. Yet, if I don’t go with just Steampunk Circus from the get go I may risk someone having a clear claim and I’d have to buy it from them or change. I’d figure that out at some point. 2k? Is branding debt a thing? Do I go with the premium name or the cheaper suggestions like “steampunkcircus.net” or “thesteampunkcircus.com”? Just build something. I went with the .com intending to return for Sans-the if it made any money. Reasonably starting is reasonable.

Get social, release animations

My friend set up @steampunkcircus on Twitter. I set up YouTube. A few initial site builds went up that were, admittedly, wasted efforts. Finding a balance between development, features and maintenance without clobbering experiments and content creation time is a considerable problem in any project. Especially one with hyper-fuzzy goals like do rad things and learn stuff. Create stuff exploring bleeding edge computing while keeping a roof over my head. That last bit is the tricky bit.

Who’d of guessed that things can get explosive at a circus?

I set up an OpenSea collection. Up-scaling to 512px images was bangers. I got bogged down trying to print a clown on a water bottle. That had to be bigger than 512. Ugh. The Reddit page I started has since been deleted along with my user. No reasons or notice given that I’m aware of. I don’t really know what happened. I’m wary of expending much energy there again. I try to be helpful but I guess it’s not my jam. Back to mostly lurking. :shrug:

The happenings of the day in AI/ML concerning crafting malleable, novel experiences inspired. I continued scripting scenes, machines, feelings, moods and character ideas and exploring the machine learning methods I would pursue to achieve them. I read a lot of older books. The voodoo hype machine ( aka, “Make $$$Mils per day with ChatGPT!!!” ) had yet to really corrode content yet. It was time to figure out how to make it all work together somehow. I had no clear direction but it certainly held gravity. I wanted a circus that wants to be a circus all the time. A useful amalgamation of automatons. Something beautiful with which I could better express and build whatever I wish and it would evolve.

“Get your Unlimited Marvel Movie Model Pass for just $10 a month! Reincarnate characters we killed for just $5 each!” - future AI ad feelings.

Unlimited cinematic experiences in a model if we could train it, configure it, prompt it and run them on fast as all sea creatures GPU machines seemed plausible, nay, an inevitable outcome. It still does. You won’t even require an internet connection if you have the model. That’s a massive shift in media consumption and resource utilization. Industry up/ending shifts in economic power and ownership.

I’d make a short film. I’d made an animated film before. Five Days premiered quite some years ago but should inform enough. This is kind of different though. The hallucinations are real. Not mine mind you. I’m a sober funambulist. The robots are on something fierce. Artificial intelligence is a special kind of sauce.

AI animation tests progressed in ernest early last summer prodded by Disco Diffusion followed sometime later by Stable Diffusion with deforum and a (w)hole host of other projects, models, papers, methods, madness and failures in between and still. It’s bonkers fun. As of this writing, the @steampunkcircus YouTube channel has 30 videos and over one hundred subscribers. I think that’s pretty neat. It is a strange thing a circus and the world is big place.

What was published last summer is just as relevant this summer. I’m kind of surprised by that. Predicting an outcome frame to frame is what we’re doing. Nothing much has changed in AI animation so much aside from it being mashed with traditional methods via img2img or an api into some applications UI interface like Blender (materials, textures). It’s a hell of a lot faster now. There are certainly countless notable advances regarding control but they still lack long enough context.

We’re all still wrangling for control and lasting coherence toward model-only AI movie making and good experiences still elude. It will get there. Bandwidth savings are going to be huge. Movies via prompt and configuration are coming. Those RNN transformer thingy’s discussed lately might be helpful. I’m not sure. I’m not a PhD. I’m a funambulist.

There are others

The advertisement on YouTube was unexpected. Quandary came to mind. Conundrum even. Cirque du Soleil had a show they call the Steampunk Circus. In real life. With real humans. It’s on the bucket list. A real life steampunk circus. Imagine that.

Further internet archeology unearthed even more steampunk circuses! Wait. Hold the phone. What? All over the planet. Like a heavily dipped caramel apple. Entire troupes of ‘em! Here I thought I was being clever. Statistically grounded.

Not alone. Not the only ones. Not the first. Certainly not the last. Steampunk circuses will always be a thing. It can’t belong to anyone. That would be nonsense. That makes sense to me. Similar to steam. At one point, I came across records of steam used in entertainment thousands of years ago. Apparently, they used it to ‘levitate’ things or something along those lines. Ancient steampunk illusionists.

I expected to hear concerns about the name given the ad. It’s been a year now and that hasn’t happened. Regardless, names change. Perhaps not the streets. I considered, briefly, A Steampunk Circus. Even moved everything to it for a few days. I love the name but, clearly, that won’t do either. Perhaps it will suite a purpose. :wink:

Given said unraveling, “The Steampunk Circus” feels pretentious. That’s not desirable to me. There are many and that is fantastic. I prefer it. One is the loneliest number.

“What’s my name?!”

The decision wasn’t as intense as perhaps saving “Fantastica”/”Fantasia” may have been but, I am pleased with my choice for a new name. It feels lighter. Carnivai.

Carnivai, a steampunk circus. Took a bit to grasp the shape.

Carnivai. Pronounced like Carniv-eye or Carniv-aaayyy. I don’t know yet. A perpetually preposterous human machine collaboration. Or a carnivorous AI? :shrugs: An amalgamation of automatons.


A steampunk circus, indeed.

More of that please

Articulating Next: ‘Naming things is hard the Nth try’ Stray tuned. :cheers: