How A.I. Is Influencing Astrology

The machine was next to a deli counter towering over a stack of cardboard boxes near the entrance to the Iconic Magazines store in SoHo. Standing tall like a standing washer-dryer, it has a white façade fronted by black buttons, rows of flashing lights and gauges marked with celestial bodies (“Sun”, “Moon” and eight planets). rice field.

“It could be from NASA,” said Tim Wiedmann, a 27-year-old student from Germany who visited the store on a Wednesday night in June.

As Mr. Wiedmann stood in front of the machine, its front screen instructed him to “ask the stars.” He used Nobu to answer about 100 questions in sequence. One of them is, “How can I get better at my job?” Should I leave New York? Should I start a cult?

After selecting a question, Mr. Wiedmann entered his date of birth, time and place. A part of the message flashed on the screen: “All answers are based on astrological calculations.” The machine took a picture of him using its built-in camera. Immediately, it spat out scraps of paper containing a grainy portrait of him and answers to his questions.

“It’s like someone is there,” Wiedmann said. He was one of many who came to use the machine that night. At times, lines of people waiting their turn began to meander through the store. Many visitors, including two 19-year-old students, said they had heard of the machine on TikTok.

“I asked for a red flag,” said one student of the question he had chosen, while another student read the answer printed on the machine.

she said: “Your red flags include a tendency to have high expectations and a fear of conflict. Jupiter-Saturn placement suggests a need for perfectionism and a fear of rejection. Avoiding conflict can limit your growth potential and meaningful connections.Remember that conflict is an essential part of intimacy. Please let go of your expectations.”

Like most people who used the machine that night, neither he nor she initially knew that the answer was generated using artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT or GPT-3.

The machine was developed by Co-Star, a technology company with a hot astrology app that uses AI to generate readings. It will run for Iconic Magazines for most of this summer before moving to Los Angeles later this year.

For centuries, astrologers have referred to the movements and positions of planets and other celestial bodies to provide divination and horoscope information. Co-Star follows a similar methodology, but its daily readings are created by an AI that pulls text from a database written for the app by a team of astrologers and poets.

The free-to-use machine was created to promote Co-Star’s new in-app service, Embrace the Void, which starts at around $1. This service works like a machine. Users can ask open-ended questions not typically addressed in the app’s astrology readings and receive AI-generated answers using Co-Star’s database of prepared texts.

Co-Star founder Banu Guller, 35, cites a range of aesthetic inspirations for the machine, including Soviet-era computers, equipment used by NASA, photo booths, vending machines and washing machines. rice field. She said this was also influenced by the Zoltar fortune-telling machine, which was once a common attraction on boardwalks and arcades.

“The best thing is being able to read a little bit,” Güller said of the Zoltermachine. “And I put the books I read in the fridge, in the books, in my journal, or they sit in the bottom of my bag for months, if you were me.”

“Even if you know it’s garbage, it’s special garbage,” she adds with a laugh.

Before starting Co-Star in 2017, Güller worked in art sales. At the time, he taught himself how to code an AI that could predict how certain factors, such as the weather on the day of an auction, would affect the selling price of a piece of art. She then used what she learned about AI to develop Co-Star.

“I was like, how does this apply to astrology,” she said.

“Astrology is not a perfect science, but neither does a perfect science. “I don’t believe science is perfect, and humans are imperfect, so I don’t think anything else is perfect either. That’s cool. It’s really, really beautiful.”

Vijender Sharma, an astrologer who has specialized in Vedic astrology for 35 years in northern India, said he used software to prepare his astrology. He said astrology is science-based, so there’s no harm in using the technology as long as the AI ​​is trained on the right knowledge.

Susan Miller, a New York astrologer who has written horoscopes for decades, was more skeptical. “AI is exciting for splitting atoms and such,” she said, adding that such techniques cannot be relied upon in practices that often deal with human emotions. “Machines make mistakes,” says Miller. “And whoever gets the answer may have that wrong answer roaming around in their minds forever.”

Nisaruga Kadam, 23, who works in financial technology in New York, was also skeptical of the AI-generated answer after checking out the Co-Star machine in a magazine shop.

“It’s a collection of trained words,” Kadam says. “It’s not personal.”

New York video director Anna Jonska, 26, felt the opposite. Jonska said she is not a big fan of astrology herself, but that this machine using her AI made her trust it even more.

“I’d rather believe an old lady leaning against a crystal ball is lying to me than a computer,” she says.

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