How Does Midjourney’s AI Art Generator Paint Abstract Concepts?

I’ve been playing with Midjourney for a few months now, and I’ve been impressed and disturbed. I’ve spent a little time messing with Dall-E, too, and although it seems to be a little smarter, there’s something about Midjourney’s style that I enjoy more.

So I got to thinking: what would Midjourney do with abstract concepts devoid of context? Let’s find out.

My first one was a short phrase: “hatred within the heart.”

Hatred Within the Heart by Midjourney
Hatred Within the Heart


But I realized I was still giving it too much. What would happen if I just gave it a single-word abstract concept, like an emotion? So I tried the word “shame.”

Shame by Midjourney


After trying several emotions, I wondered what it would do with a descriptive adjective with no object.

So I tried “clever.”

Clever by AI artist

Philosophical systems

Surely, I thought, it would struggle with words for schools of philosophy. Or maybe it would create a person resembling the philosophers who popularized those schools of thought.

But nope, I got something more interesting.

Existential by Midjourney
Nihilism by Midjourney

An undisclosed time

What happens if I tell it to paint a time, but I make that time as vague and abstract as possible?

The End by AI artist
The End

A little on the nose, maybe.

Scientific concepts

Science has reached a point where many theories are impossible to visualize. So how would Midjourney’s AI artist depict them?

Quantum Entanglement by Midjourney
Quantum Entanglement

My thoughts

I have to admit that AI art has surpassed my ability to visualize the abstract quickly. Not all of them are the images I might have chosen, but they all work somehow—and sometimes surprisingly well. They all evoke a sense of the abstract concept in a way I think most people will recognize when they see it, even when it’s not overt. I even feel deep emotions when I look at some of these in a way human-made art rarely manages. There’s something disturbingly human about it, like it knows us a little too well and is dredging up monsters from our collective unconscious.

AI art may be on the path to surpassing human artists, but when the novelty wears off, I predict we’ll find it more satisfying to know a piece was created by a human being using hard-won skills.

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