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A camera for ideas

July 2022 1 minute read

Thoughts on new generative art tools such as Stable Diffusion, DALL-E and Midjourney.

A revolutionary new kind of camera was recently invented. Instead of turning light into pictures, it turns ideas into pictures.

The traditional camera replicates what your eyes do. It works by receiving millions of photons onto a light-sensitive material, processed into a kind of picture we call a photograph (from Greek roots meaning a “light drawing”).

This new kind of camera replicates what your imagination does. It receives words and then synthesizes a picture from its experience seeing millions of other pictures. The output doesn’t have a name yet, but I’ll call it a synthograph (meaning synthetic drawing).

Both kinds of cameras are tools that help us convert moments into pictures.

Pictures are powerful because they can be shared across time, space, and language barriers. Pictures allow you to travel back in time and see what someone else saw, at that moment, wherever they were.

Photography can capture moments that happened, but synthography is not bound by the limitations of reality. Synthography can capture moments that did not happen and moments that could never happen.

Taking a great photo is about being at the right place, at the right time, and pointing your camera at the right subject, in just the right way.

Taking a great syntho is about stimulating the imagination of the camera. Synthography doesn’t require you to be anywhere or anywhen in particular. The great synthographers will be great storytellers and great poets.

Photography is an important medium of expression because it is so accessible and instantaneous. Synthography will even further reduce barriers to entry, and give everyone the power to convert ideas into pictures.

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