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Nothing To Worry About: Dall-E Has Created A New Cryptid Named Crungus

Crungus is awake.

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockJun 21 2022, 09:38 UTC
crungus reaches out from the darkness
Has AI discovered a new creature called Crungus? Image credit: Joeprachatree/Shutterstock.com, Twitter/Guy Kelly

Last month, an artificial intelligence (AI) researcher caused a bit of a stir when he suggested that text to image generator Dall-E 2 had created its own secret language. Now, another unsettling feature has been discovered in Dall-E 2's open access predecessor, Dall-E: It appears to have invented an entirely new cryptid named Crungus.

Comedian Guy Kelly was messing around with the usually enjoyable AI when he decided to put in the prompt "crungus".

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"I really enjoy coming up with words/names/things that sound satisfying, and evoke feelings of a thing," Kelly told IFLScience. "Crungus. Plunff. Crudge."

"I was lying in bed at 2/3 am, and I thought 'ooh, I should come up with some of those names that sound like a monster (to me, a human) into the AI wossname, and see if it (an AI, soulless sand) agrees with me.' The plan was to try a few," he said, "but I hit 'run' on the site and promptly fell asleep."

"Then I woke up the following morning, opened my phone, and was greeted by Crungus. It was horrible."

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He is not kidding.

Now, one fun thing about this is that no such monster exists. The first results for the word on Google reveal that crungus is "the crud and fungus that collects under extremely long fingernails left unmanicured for an extended period of time".

Another fun thing is that, despite the previous non-existence of this cryptid, Dall-E reliably spits out the same monster when people type in any variation of Crungus.

So, what's going on? Well, we don't have any certain answers, but people do have a few theories.

"It's been really interesting seeing so many people's different ideas," Kelly told IFLScience. "Lots of people have said [it's due to the similarity to] Krampus, but feeding it (the AI, not Crungus) Krampus gives a very different beast."

"The closest I think I've seen is the GWAR vocalist Oderus Urungus. I suspect the AI is pulling a lot from the -rungus suffix, and then the 'uh-uh' internal bounce of it maybe getting something Orc-based, assuming the AI also looks for things based on sounds and rhythm."

Though it's not clear precisely why it associates -rungus with monsters, the string of letters does reliably produce nightmare fuel.

While fun and horrifying in equal measure, it does highlight how researchers (let alone lowly users) using machine-learning AI often don't know precisely how their algorithms are solving the problems they are tasked with. 

Like the AI that can identify race from X-rays where no human can see how, Dall-E will have its reasons for why it created Crungus, we just don't know precisely what they are. 

"Or, of course," Kelly adds, "failing that, Crungus is a creature that has always existed in a world slightly adjacent to ours, and through humanity's hubris in attempting to create a thinking machine, we've pierced the veil between worlds and invited something in that can never be sent away."


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