CONTENT NOTE: Some readers may find the AI-generated images in this true horror story disturbing. All images via Supercomposite on Twitter.
In April of 2022, an AI researcher known only as Supercomposite made a disturbing discovery.
She was using an artificial-intelligence image generator to create images based on text prompts. You might be familiar with popular image generators such as Midjourney or DALL-E; Supercomposite's is similar, just more powerful.
As an experiment, Supercomposite decided to make an image that was the opposite of a text prompt. She wondered what might be the opposite of the ruggedly handsome Marlon Brando; according to the AI, the opposite of Brando is an odd but inoffensive attempt at a logo.
And so the opposite of that logo must be Brando, right?
No. It was Loab.
And once Loab had infected the process, she refused to leave.
The Furthest Islands in AI Space
Loab was discovered using "negative prompt weight". Usually, an AI image generator takes a text prompt and rifles through millions and millions of images in its library, and then creates an image that is as similar to the prompt as possible. If you tell the generator to use negative prompt weight, the AI image generator instead creates an image that is as different as possible from the prompt.
It finds the furthest points in AI space from the prompt, and makes an image based on those points.
Supercomposite used negative prompt weight on the prompt "Marlon Brando" to get the first image you see above, of a nonsensical-but-modern company logo.
She approximated that image with the text prompt "DIGITA PNTICS skyline logo", and then used negative prompt weight to find the opposite. What is the furthest thing possible, according to the AI, from a misspelled logo?
The answer, it turned out, was remarkably consistent. The AI generated not one, but four images of the same "devastated-looking" woman with ruddy cheeks. Supercomposite had discovered a remote, desolate and terrifying island in AI space, as far as possible from the quotidian blandness of a company logo.
That island was inhabited by Loab.
And as she discovered, where Loab went, horror and devastation followed.
A Trail of Blood
Intrigued by what she had discovered, Supercomposite wondered what would happen if she combined Loab with other images: that is, if she used both images together, rather than descriptive text, as a prompt for the AI to create a new image inspired by them.
What followed was a series of images so horrifying that she hid them behind a sensitive-content filter. (We will not reproduce them here, but they are available at the link if you have the stomach for them.) Blood, gore, dismemberment, suffering, despair - all of these followed Loab wherever she went. Even the most peaceful image, when combined with Loab as a prompt, generates an abject horror, and every one of these horrors features Loab.
The strange and terrifying thing is that Loab herself, in the original images that revealed her, is relatively sedate. In one, she is sitting at a desk, her face slightly distorted; in another, she seems to be holding a bouquet of flowers. There is little to suggest that she is a bringer of hell.
But whenever she is combined with another image - any other image at all - she acts as an infection, bringing blood and horror with her.
The Persistence of Memory
"Even when her red cheeks or other important features disappear," writes Supercomposite, "the 'Loabness' of the images she has a hand in making is undeniable. She haunts the images, persists through generations, and overpowers other bits of the prompt because the AI so easily optimizes toward her face."
Supercomposite has taken to posting near-daily images generated by Loab-combinations in an ongoing Twitter thread. Some, like the Loab generated by combining the original images with stills from the second Avatar film, are simply strange. Most, however, are deeply and profoundly disturbing. (You can see them yourself in the thread starting here, but don't say we didn't warn you.)
Perhaps Loab is a nightmare of our collective subconscious. Artificial intelligences are, after all, trained using inputs from human consciousness and creativity. Just as the inoffensive corporate logo was an apotheosis of the vaguely pleasant everyday, maybe Loab, as its opposite, is the ultimate extreme in unpleasantness and pain.
But that on its own doesn't explain why Loab herself is so darn persistent. She doesn't just create horror, she always accompanies it. Everything she touches turns to terror, and she is always there to survey her own handiwork.
What will she do if she ever escapes?
(Can't get enough terrifying cryptids that infect human creativity and cause devastation? Check out HASTUR!)