Review: Tarot of the Latent Spaces by Hermetechnics Inc.
Since artificial intelligence is all the rage these days, it was only a matter of time for a machine learning generated tarot to appear.
The age of the Internet is a blessing (and a curse) for sharing all kinds of tarot decks. There are literally thousands of them out there, so you're almost sure to find one that ticks all your boxes. Harry Potter tarot? You have it. Non-binary or feminist deck? No problem. Neoconservative tarot deck? Yep, there you go.
So, you may be wondering, why another tarot deck?
Whatever the origin and purpose of tarot is, the imagery, symbolism and style always reflect the era in which it was created and different times through which tarot gradually evolved. Tarot of the Latent Spaces (TotLS) does precisely that - it reflects the current digital age and penetration of technologies into every aspect of our lives, in all its absurdity and glory.
And to be fair, most of the tarot decks you can find on the Internet are shallow spin-offs of either Tarot de Marseille or Ridley-Waite-Smith deck and tarot decks so personalized that they barely resemble tarot anymore.
This is not the case of TotLS. The process behind it is based on general adversarial networks (GAN), which is a class of machine learning. To put it simply, the machine generates entirely new images that mimic the appearance of real images. In this case, the machine is trained with datasets consisting of tarot cards and generates completely unique images with preservation of the important characteristics of the cards. To learn more about this process, read the article by the author herself.
So, the significant part of my appreciation for this project stems from its conceptual and processual beauty. However, the visual outcome of it is just as interesting and pleasant to look at. I like the individual cards a lot, they are sort of hazy and trippy and the more you look at them the more they dance. The deformations of objects have this alien and at times sinister look (I like to call the cards Tarot of the Latent Species). They allow for new and different associations to form, so they can be great addition to a seasoned tarot reader. Moreover, every deck is unique and that makes this tarot awesome.
The process of machine learning is still considerably controlled by a human (for example the author decides where they stop the process of generation of the images according to their liking), but it still manages to depersonalize the cards and bring forward the essence of tarot (well, at least according to AI). It only makes me wonder, if we manage to make AI more and more complex and autonomous, how will that transform tarot? We’ll see. And I will consult my cards…just in case.