Last month, an artificial intelligence (AI) researcher made headlines when he claimed that Dall-E 2, a text-to-image converter, had developed its own hidden language. Another unpleasant aspect has been uncovered in Dall-E 2’s open beta predecessor, Dall-E: Resurrection. It appears to have created a brand-new cryptid known as Crungus. Guy Kelly, a comedian, was toying around with the AI when he decided to put in the phrase “crungus.”
Kelly told IFLScience, “I really like coming up with words/names/things that sound gratifying and conjure thoughts of a thing.” “Crungus. Crudge. Plunff.” “I was lying in bed about 2/3 a.m., thinking to myself, ‘ooh, I should put some of those monster names (to me, a human) into the AI wossname, and see if it (an AI, soulless sand) agrees with me.’ “I had intended to test a couple,” he explained, “but I accidentally pushed ‘run’ on the site and soon fell asleep.””
“The next morning, I awoke, unlocked my phone, and was welcomed by Crungus. It was a nightmare.” One amusing aspect of this is that such a creature does not exist. Crungus is defined as “the filth and fungus that gathers beneath exceptionally long fingernails left unmanicured for an extended length of time,” according to Google’s initial results. Another amusing fact is that, despite the fact that this cryptid was previously unknown, Dall-E consistently produces the same creature when people enter in any version of Crungus.
So, what exactly is going on here? We don’t have any definitive answers, but there are a few possibilities floating about. Kelly told IFLScience, “It’s been incredibly intriguing seeing so many various people’s thoughts.” “A lot of people say it’s because of the Krampus resemblance, but feeding it (the AI, not Crungus) Krampus produces a totally different beast.”
“I believe I’ve seen GWAR vocalist Oderus Urungus come close. The ‘uh-uh’ internal bounce of it maybe obtaining anything Orc-related, presuming the AI also looks for things based on sounds and rhythm, makes me think the AI is taking a lot from the -rungus suffix.” Though it’s unclear why -rungus is associated with monsters, the series of letters is guaranteed to give you nightmares.
While amusing and terrifying in equal measure, it does show how academics (let alone ordinary people) who utilize machine-learning AI frequently have no idea how their algorithms are tackling the issues they’ve been given. Dall-E, like the AI that can discern race from X-rays in ways that no human can, will have its own motivations for creating Crungus; we simply don’t know what they are.
“Or, failing that, Crungus is a monster that has always lived in a realm somewhat next to ours, and by humanity’s arrogance in striving to construct a thinking machine, we’ve breached the curtain between worlds and brought something in that can never be sent away,” Kelly concludes.