Can We Really Know Anything About Carrots?


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Can We Really Know Anything About Carrots?
"One might be tempted to ask it to describe in single words only the good things that come into its mind about its mother."

The resource-hungry algorithms dubiously described as ‘AI’ have undergone a colossal shift over the past few years – indeed, over the past few months - and now that they’re obnoxious adolescents trying to convince people to eat glue, smoke two to three cigarettes a day during pregnancy or clean their ovens with chlorine gas, it’s easy to forget how cute they were when they were little. Scott Bateman’s short film captures a moment in time when they were just beginning to try and imitate creativity, and it’s a film which, whilst amusing at the time of release (December 2023), is destined to grow in value and intrigue over time.

Directed and edited by Bateman, the film was crafted using three different systems. MidJourney V.3 provides the images, all black and white, able to take natural-seeming form but only for fractions of a second, slipping in and out of that with disconcerting ease, all machines and eyes. ChatGPT provides the script, attempting to answer a series of increasingly bizarre questions in ways not yet homicidal, more charmingly odd. Apple’s Text-to-Speech, by far the most advanced of the trio, provides the spoken words. It could almost pass for human, but for its limited intonation and its failure to demonstrate any emotional reaction to the aforementioned oddness, which is as natural to it as any string of ones and zeroes.

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Perhaps because of the distancing effect of the distortion, which immediately labels it as something separate from life, the film doesn’t have much of that uncanny valley effect that some people find repellant. It’s still a little too rough-hewn to be creepy in that way, but there’s a sensuousness about it, a sort of tacit eagerness to please, which is at times quite unsettling. Artistically, it promises magic and yet it is, in this form, obviously no more than a tool, a void which can never create in the absence of a human user. For want of a better term, one might say that it too patently lacks a soul. One might be tempted to ask it to describe in single words only the good things that come into its mind about its mother.

Despite this, the film has a certain charm, and at a crisp six minutes does not overstay its welcome. If its title hints that the questions we ask about the virtual world might have wider significance, it confirms that ‘AI’ is not better placed to answer that than we are to answer them. It does, however, succeed in reminding us that there are other, very different ways of looking at the world, even if nobody can, as yet, be said to experience them directly.

Reviewed on: 25 May 2024
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An experiment with artificial intelligence, looking at the world from a different perspective.

Director: Scott Bateman

Writer: ChatGPT, Scott Bateman

Year: 2023

Runtime: 6 minutes

Country: US


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