Water Lilies
Nymphées, by Claude Monet, digitally corrected.

Buried way down in the menus is a new setting in Microsoft Edge, the second-most-popular browser:

Enhance images in Microsoft Edge
Sharpens images and improves color, lighting, and contrast

It turns out that Microsoft has introduced sophisticated artificial intelligence to process all the images you look at even if you don’t ask for them to be processed.

This is amazing! Haven’t you always wished Rembrandt could be a bit brighter? Wouldn’t it be better if Monet weren’t so blurry?

If you are a photographer, chances are pretty good that sharpness, color, lighting, and contrast are the four things you fuss over most when you’re preparing a photograph for publication. Well, you’re just wasting your time. Microsoft will use the awesome power of artificial intelligence to throw out your decisions and substitute much better ones. The setting is on by default, and it takes an inquisitive user or an unlikely coincidence even to discover that it exists.

This must be what the future looks like. In the future, artists will no longer have to worry about whether they have got the colors exactly right or whether the subject stands out from the background well enough. Rough in the composition, and the machine will take it from there. And the artists who do worry about those fussy little details will no longer waste anybody’s time but their own. The rest of us will see their pictures with all the currently fashionable aesthetic decisions made in the most agreeably fashionable way.

But why should we stop at images? Couldn’t deep learning tidy up Shakespeare’s notoriously sloppy blank verse? The pacing of Moby-Dick could be tightened to James Patterson standards. All that frittering about in a Bach fugue could be reduced to a tune you could walk home humming. The frustrating vagueness in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey could be sharpened up until a five-year-old could understand what was going on.

Microsoft has come up with the artificial-intelligence version of this French translator.

Of course the main effect early users noticed was that a lot of images in Edge were blurrier than in other browsers, but Microsoft says, “We're aware of the issue and are looking into it.”


  1. The Shadow says:

    Why, artificial “intelligence” could even make Dr. Boli sound like The Onion!

    The horror! The horror!!

  2. Daniel says:

    “The pacing of Moby-Dick could be tightened to James Patterson standards.” And think of introducing also the benefits of Fact Checking. Melville: “The whale is a fish.” AI:”Whales are, like, these super intelligent mammals that have so much to teach us about climate change…”

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