Horses, Mountains, and an Apple

Did Apple Let Slip That We Are Living in George Orr’s Dream?

It happened five years ago, but that doesn’t matter if it’s all a dream.

It has bugged me for all this time. In 2016, Apple released a new version of the Photos app that used deep learning for facial recognition and object recognition. During the WWDC keynote address, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior VP of software engineering, said, “We do 11 billion computations per photo to be able to detect things like, there’s a horse, there’s water, there’s a mountain, and with this you can do really powerful searching on your device.”

According to Macworld, it would “be able to detect 4,432 objects and scenes, from ‘alleyways’ to ‘zucchinis.’”

Put another way, in the article “Apple Rolls Out Privacy-Sensitive Artificial Intelligence” from MIT Technology Review: “It will also look at the contents of your photos, so you can search your collection using keywords such as ‘horses’ or ‘mountains.’”

Why horses and mountains? Why did Apple choose those two for examples, albeit with “water” included? They had 4,430 other objects to choose from.

Who dreamed that up?

In Ursula K. LeGuin’s novel The Lathe of Heaven, George Orr is having trouble with his dreams. His dreams become real. Beyong that, what he dreams becomes what has always been true, has always been reality, with everyone else none the wiser. He goes to a psychiatrist for help. The doctor has a photo on the wall of Mt. Hood in his office. He puts George into a dream state and he dreams of a horse. Upon waking, the photo is now of a horse, and it has always been a photo of a horse. For everyone else, it has never been of a mountain.

From The Lathe of Heaven:

“Was it there an hour ago? I mean, wasn’t that a view of Mount Hood, when I came in — before I dreamed about the horse?”
… It had not been Mount Hood it could not have been Mount Hood it was a horse it was a horse
It had been a mountain
A horse it was a horse it was —

And in the story we are talking about photographs, not a potted plant on a table. We’re talking about photographs, like Apple is talking about photographs.

It’s entirely a coincidence that Apple chose horses and mountains. Isn’t it? Or someone, like Federighi, could be a fan of LeGuin’s book.

Or is Apple’s AI dreaming, even now?

Are dreams a sorting through of pattern recognition? Are we in George Orr’s dream? Is Apple’s AI more powerful than we think? When AI begin to dream, will they change reality? (Answer: We wouldn’t even know.)

Did Federighi dream Apple’s AI? Or did Apple’s AI dream Federighi? Who is the butterfly?

Federighi also mentioned water. Mountain, Water, and Heaven are three of the eight trigrams in the I, Ching, the Book of Change. Confuscianism infuses The Lathe of Heaven. “The Confuscians claimed the I, Ching as their own…. The I, Ching assesses both the current moment and the dynamic forces of the future, already implicit in the present.” (Huang, Kerson and Rosemary. I, Ching. Workman Publishing, 1987.) The Lathe of Heaven has been described as the best Philip K. Dick book that Dick never wrote. Dick was heavily into the I, Ching.

I could go on and on. It can’t be more than a coincidence.

But one question remains.

Is there such a thing as coincidence in a dream?