Artist Owen Hindley, working in TouchDesigner, tackles the dense, pulsating track “Harmonic Dream Sequence” by Dustin O’Halloran (A Winged Victory For The Sullen). It’s a dark contemplation of the insatiable appetites of Big Data and AI, translated into strangely beautiful clouds of particles for an equally gorgeous track.

Owen tells CDM, “It’s a meditation on anxieties and the promise of this weird AI-flavoured future we’ve found ourselves in (although for my money, I’m still stuck in this xkcd view of things.)” He met O’Halloran in a Reykyavik co-working gym, and the two hit it off.

O’Halloran is a film composer and has effectively scored our deepest AI ambivalence. As he describes it, the track “is a psychedelic depiction of the current naive desire to experiment with technology, with a lack of concern for some possible future where it gains autonomy from its creators and users.”

Owen ran with that but developed something poetic in response:

I set about trying to create a visual system that would capture both the complexity and scale of this AI-driven future, hinting at the anxiety-inducing speed, the unknowable biases buried deep within it, and also look really, really cool.

The resulting video is intended to be a poetic visualisation of both the wonder and anxiety produced by our collective ability to develop technology that not only reflects our own world back at us in unsettling, distorted and disruptive ways, but how it can also – through modern neural networks and ‘AI’ systems – appear to create new worlds for us to explore.

Created in TouchDesigner, and using a mix of real LIDAR scans and simulated (hallucinated?) depth scans, millions of particles represent the raw data we feed into these ever-hungry machines. At first they form strange, uncomfortable shapes which periodically resolve into recognisable forms before collapsing again into chaos. Then structure emerges, as we train the system to recognise connections, patterns and layers in the data, before we dive into it, triggering chaotic lightning flashes of connection between disparate pieces of data, and producing unexpected outputs at incredible speed.

But despite having access to an entire Internet’s representation of reality and the results of incredible computing power, we’re left with a uneasy feeling at the results, the ghostly, dreamlike sensations it leaves us with making us ask uncomfortable questions about our own minds, and the future it beckons us towards.

Owen is doing live shows, too – here with Þorsteinn Eyfjörð in Iceland, also powered by TouchDesigner:

Wonderful work – and I’m fully enjoying all the latest music by Dustin O’Halloran, too. Thanks!