Tuesday, November 15, 2022

The computer stumbles

   Look at these four photos. A mixed bag. Above left, you have a clown lamenting over voting machines. Above right, people walking by garbage cans.
       To the right, a woman sitting on a train. And below, another woman having a private moment outside a courtroom downtown.  They are among the 48 photographs that Apple Photo scraped together out of my 66,000 or so shots stored therein. 
So, my question is ... what do you think was the one search term was that kicked up these four photos? An engine designed by Apple, mind you, one of the premiere tech companies in the world. Take your time. Look closely. I'll give you a hint. It isn't "people." Or "streets." Or "voting machines." 
     (Nor could I break up the above paragraph into two, since sitting next to the photo somehow stopped that from happening. When I think of how buggy Blogger, the system where I write this I shouldn't be surprised (nor complain. It is free. I suppose you get what you pay for).
     I was searching for something to go along with Caren Jeskey's post last Saturday, and ended up having to use the Dall-E AI program (named as a riff on the movie Wall-E) to draw what I needed: suitcases. These four photos came up when I searched for the word "suitcase." 
     To be fair, there were also photos containing suitcases. But too many others, like these, that didn't. Only voting machines, garbage cans, purses and radiators that looked like suitcases, to a computer. There are still a few bugs in the system, which I suppose is a good thing. Not our overlord quite yet.


  1. The photo of the woman resting looks like it was taken in the Richard J. Daley Center. Maybe about the 20th floor which would be county courtrooms?

    1. My guess is the Klusinski building

    2. The lady on the train has a couple of bags on the seat in front of her that don't look anything like suitcases but well I guess. What's your definition of a suitcase?
      The two men walking past. The trash cans are carrying duffel bags, again. Loosely you could imagine these to be what we once called suitcases even the lady sitting on the heater at the courts building has a bag in her lap ,
      The voting machines have handles on top which make them look like suitcases

      AI go figure?

    3. WRONG! Oh, how I pine for the days of "Saturday fun activity: Where IS this?" That Apple Photo algorithm is unimaginably awesome. It predicted Monday's column and chose its favorite building the United Methodist Church at 77 W. Washington, across the street from the Daley Center. Besides every real Chicagoan knows the Federal Courtrooms are in the Dirksen Federal Building

    4. Mr. S. Said she was sitting outside a federal courtroom.
      Clearly that is the sky chapel across the street to the right. A place I should have recognized having worked there.

      Also work in the Dirksen building. Have for 25 years of my 64 years as a lifelong chicagoan

    5. Yeah, I wasn't precise enough. Clearly Daley Center. I'll change.

  2. Yes, not our overlord yet, but...scary when they are uncannily accurate and perhaps scarier when they make errors.


  3. A subset of computer weirdness is not bugginess but doing exactly what it was asked to do, even if the results of its attempt at logic make no sense (to us). In this case it was asked to find "suitcases," and apparently set out to locate images of rectangular, um, things that were close to people in a photo. Clearly they still have a ways to go, though I still have to marvel at how far it's come already.

    I have found that the even newer image search (using an image of your own rather than a description, and asking the Intertubes to find another image out there that's similar or identical to the example you're giving it) can work startlingly well, presumably because it's working a bit more mechanically, looking at image patterns, and not trying to apply human logic quite so much.

    Incidentally, I do see a paragraph break next to your photo of the woman on the train, where you were complaining about not being able to add one in photo wraparound text, though that might just be how my desktop browser formats the page. If you're pressing your Enter key and not getting a new paragraph where you want, try doing a "soft return" instead, where you force a newline via a Shift+Enter command, and see if that gets you what you want to see. As you noted, we are still masters of our machines, if only just barely.

  4. Caren's column was her best one yet. I just did the suitcase search in my google photos. Several times I was sure there was no suitcase in the photo until I looked more closely and saw someone passing in the background with a roller bag. I agree, though, that I'm generally happier when the algorithm gets it wrong.

  5. what is really amazing is you have taken 66,000 photos. If you got an I phone when it first came out that is 4400 photos a year.


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