“God has an inordinate fondness for beetles,” said, or so it is claimed, the British evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane. On quantity alone, he was absolutely correct. There are about 400,000 species of beetle on the planet — a cool 395,000 more than mammals can offer — and while this sort of number-gaming is fraught with the risk of glibness, the assertion that beetles make up between a quarter and a third of extant animal species is probably not too far off.
I’m on less firm ground if I assert that articles about machine learning make up between a quarter and a third of today’s internet, but sometimes that’s what it feels like. Normally I’d be sorry for adding to the mass fervour for what mostly amounts to snake oil, but I think we have a special case today.
Machine learning is very bad at a lot of things, and frequently bad in surprisingly ways. But it’s very good at some things. Playing with datasets which combine cleanliness and predictability with mind-boggling diversity is, perhaps, The Thing it is best at. Happily, the long-tradition of scientific beetle-drawing has produced sheet upon sheet of beautiful, anatomically correct and aesthetically similar pictures. Piping those into a generative adversarial network gives you ... well, it gives you this.
BEHOLD! THE ALGORITHMIC BEETLE GENERATOR:
A beetle generator made by machine-learning thousands of #PublicDomain illustrations https://t.co/cPXLU5aaBI by @cunicode pic.twitter.com/IDhe7VnQdc— algoritmic (@algoritmic) January 3, 2020
Despite this video being 100 percent shapeshifting beetles it’s also, somehow, extremely relaxing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. If so, you can get an extra kick from the mangled semi-beetles that constituted Cunicode’s first attempt at this.
PS: It’s funny to think that most of these machine-generated beetles probably already exist. An inordinate fondness, indeed.