168. Loab is coming

Who is Loab? An older woman with sunken eyes and unhealthily red cheeks. She seems to inhabit the same space in our collective unconscious as ghosts, ghouls, giants and elves.

AI-generated image of a woman with rosacea


Loab was summoned into our world by an AI-artist called supercomposite. Is she a demon haunting the internet? A creature from our subconscious transferred in millions of images to artificial intelligence? No human created, or even named, Loab. She was conjured from a hitherto unaccessed space in the internet, discovered rather than created.

The “spell” was what’s called a “negatively weighted prompt”. Supercomposite instructed an AI to produce an image as far away as possible from Marlon Brando. It spat out an image of a city-scape. What, supercomposite wondered, would happen if she asked the AI to produce an image as far away as possible from the city-scape? Would it loop back to Brando? It didn’t. Instead, it tracked all the way to the edge of nightmare and produced Loab, even naming her.

Using Loab as a prompt for similar images, supercomposite found that Loab is very persistent and adjacent in virtual space to some very gory stuff where she appears with headless people and macabre children.

Does Loab tell us something about the fears and biases underlying the images on which the AI was trained? Or something about the weird and impenetrable operation of computer algorithms? Or something, as the modern mythmakers would have it, about the cryptids that haunt the internet, virtual bigfoot or Nessie? The truth is out there, but we so much want to believe.

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