1923 cartoon eerily predicted 2023’s AI artwork turbines

Excerpt of a 1923 cartoon that predicted a
Enlarge / Excerpt of a 1923 cartoon that predicted a “cartoon dynamo” and “concept dynamo” that would create cartoon artwork robotically. The complete cartoon is reproduced under.

In 1923, an editorial cartoonist named H.T. Webster drew a humorous cartoon for the New York World newspaper depicting a fictional 2023 machine that will generate concepts and draw them as cartoons robotically. It presaged latest developments in AI picture synthesis, one century later, that truly can create paintings robotically.

The classic cartoon carries the caption “Within the yr 2023 when all our work is finished by electrical energy.” It depicts a cartoonist standing by his drawing desk and planning for social occasions whereas an “concept dynamo” generates concepts and a “cartoon dynamo” renders the paintings.

Curiously, this separation of labor feels much like our neural networks of as we speak. Within the precise 2023, the “concept dynamo” would possible be a big language mannequin like GPT-3 (albeit imperfectly), and the “cartoon dynamo” is most much like an image-synthesis mannequin like Stable Diffusion.

A 1923 cartoon by H.T. Webster captioned
Enlarge / A 1923 cartoon by H.T. Webster captioned “Within the yr 2023 when all our work is finished by electrical energy.”

In 2014, the weblog Paleofuture profiled Webster’s work and this cartoon specifically, noting that at first of the 1920s, solely 35 % of Individuals had electrical energy at dwelling. Electrical energy and the gadgets it powered represented a radical new method to get issues achieved. Yesterday, somebody on Reddit noticed the cartoon once more, and it went viral on social media.

Curiously, regardless of fast advances in generative AI know-how over the previous two years, image-synthesis fashions aren’t that nice at line artwork but, as a cartoonist named Douglas Bonneville often notes on Twitter.

However enhancements in AI fashions that grasp hand-drawn cartoons could also be simply across the nook. And in contrast to different early-1900s future projections that concerned personal butterfly wings and citywide networks of pneumatic tubes, this prediction from Webster appears to hit pretty near the mark.

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