Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are key buzzwords from the computer science industry, referring to machines that carry out smart tasks – and they are no longer distant prospects of the future. The phenomenon is already proliferating modern day life, from robotic pets and cleaning products, to surgeons and recommendation systems that memorise our tastes in music, movies and ads. Now, even the medium of storytelling is adapting to make way for this new Age of Artificial Intelligence and its limitless potential.
AI and machine learning are increasingly being harnessed as creative tools, reshaping the scope of storytelling and the reader’s experience. Whilst initially these technologies were only available to a select number of scientists and journalists, they are now widely accessible to everyone. What’s more, usually they are free of charge. TalkToTransformer, created by Canadian engineer Adam King, is currently one of the most popular AI text generators on the web, able to write you a poem or story based on any given prompt. The system was innovated only early this year by a research lab called OpenAI, using GPT-2 as its language system.
Nowadays, storytellers are not shy to experiment with AI, and one of the most interesting pioneers is Libby Heaney. Heaney is an artist, lecturer and quantum physicist who is reviving texts with modern ingenuity, and engaging new readers in unexpected ways. She produced Lady Chatterley’s Tinderbot, for example, a work which details conversations between an AI Tinderbot masquerading as characters from Lady Chatterley’s Lover and other Tinder users. This project offers an innovative perspective on the great classic by English author D. H. Lawrence, first published in 1928, infusing the story with modern-day relevance and relatability.
The number of exhibitions, conferences, forums and events exploring this growing phenomenon is rising rapidly. The Barbican in London, for example, has been showcasing research projects by DeepMind, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Neri Oxman, whilst the People’s History Museum in Manchester has partnered up with a range of experts specialising in interactive and immersive storytelling, including Ross Goodwin, Pietro Gagliano and Luba Elliott. Together, tommorow they are hosting an event on the topic.
If you want to take a more in-depth look at some of the technologies mentioned in this article, there are relevant links below.
The People’s History Museum in Manchester, and with details on the aforementioned event on October 26th: https://www.thespace.org/event/next-generation-storytelling-ai-and-language
Lady Chatterley’s Tinderbot: http://libbyheaney.co.uk/lady-chatterleys-tinderbot/
Jade Cuttle graduated from the University of Cambridge with First-Class Honours in Literature, going on to undertake an MA in Poetry at the University of East Anglia. Selected by Ledbury Poetry Festival as an Emerging Critic and winning Best Reviewer (Editor's Choice) in the 2018 Saboteur Awards, Jade has written for the Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, The Spectator, The Times & The Sunday Times, the Observer, BBC Radio 3, BBC Proms, The Poetry Review and elsewhere. She is Deputy Poetry Editor at Ambit and judging the Costa Book Awards 2019. You can find out more on her website: www.jadecuttle.com