After a few days of patiently waiting, we finally have a winner in our unofficial contest from earlier this week.
Reader Romulo Pietrangeli got it right: None of the cats pictured in our April 13 post are real felines.
All nine images were created by the machine learning algorithm that powers the site This Cat Does Not Exist, a riff on the original This Person Does Not Exist, a site that uses generative adversarial networks (GANS) to create stunningly realistic images of people on the fly.
(Above: All six images above are computer-generated using the same technology behind ThisCatDoesNotExist.)
Phillip Wang, the 33-year-old software engineer behind both sites (and a few others using the same tech and concept), explained to Inverse in an earlier interview why he created ThisPersonDoesNotExist.
“I’m basically at the point in my life where I’m going to concede that super-intelligence will be real and I need to devote my remaining life to [it],” Wang said. “The reaction speaks to how much people are in the dark about A.I. and its potential.”
Because the internet is ruled by cats, it was only a matter of time before a feline-generating version of the human-creating algorithm was brought online.
(Above: More artificially-generated cats. Artefacts in the images can sometimes give away the fact that they’re fake, such as the third image in the second row, where part of the cat’s fur is transparent.)
A CNN article from 2019 explains how GAN technology works:
In order to generate such images, StyleGAN makes use of a machine-learning method known as a GAN, or generative adversarial network. GANs consist of two neural networks — which are algorithms modeled on the neurons in a brain — facing off against each other to produce real-looking images of everything from human faces to impressionist paintings. One of the neural networks generates images (of, say, a woman’s face), while the other tries to determine whether that image is a fake or a real face.
Wang, who said his software “dreams up a new face every two seconds,” told CNN he hoped his creations would spark conversation and get people to think critically about what they see in front of them. It looks like he’s achieved his goal.
Christopher Schmidt, a Google engineer who used the same technology to create fake home and rental interiors, agreed.
“Maybe we should all just think an extra couple of seconds before assuming something is real,” Schmidt told CNN.
Pietrangeli, for his part, says he can tell the difference: “All of the animal images,” he wrote, “lacked ‘aura.'”