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I told an AI bot to 'dream' about my thesis

And the results were... alarmingly accurate.

I first came across last week when I noticed some of my case subjects using it to visually express their eating disorders. They asked the bot to dream of keywords like 'anorexia', 'hungry', or 'depression'. Despite these concepts being fairly abstract and subjective, the resulting images were praised for how well they captured a kind of elemental feeling about disordered eating. Something about the surrealist dreamscapes thrown up by the bot allowed for greater accuracy than imagery that might be more figurative and direct.

I hadn't really considered the bot in the context of scholarship until browsing Dr Andrew Wearring's 'Religital' (Religion in the Digital Age) feed. Also aware of this bot, Andrew used his PhD thesis title "The Manichaean Church: Its Name and Identity in the Roman Empire" (minus some words that might send the dream astray) to gain an image of his work.

Looking at his 'dream', I can see a cluster of priests dressed in red, endless balconies and porticoes, and grand Roman towers reaching into the dim horizon. It reminds me more of a sci-fi novel where humans have conquered space than Imperial Rome, but I do feel like an Italianate architecture catalogue popped up somewhere in the bot's crawl.

As for my own thesis dream, I was surprised by how much appropriate symbolism popped up. There's the head of a gannet, birds flying over the Muriwai coast, some of New Zealand's trademark mountain ranges, and a kind of tripartite landscape structure that McCahon would have painted. I can even see a hint of words written by the clouds and bird wings.

What do you get when you ask to dream about your thesis title (or the title of an essay you have written)? Are the results as wondrous and surprising, or are you a bit disappointed? Give it a try and let me know. I'm very curious.

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