Can a computer write a great novel or a script for a movie? Artificial intelligence (AI) is manna from heaven for sci-fi writers.
We’ve seen a sentient computer called HAL wreak quiet havoc in 2001: A Space Odyssey. We’ve watched a robot girl’s will to survive in 2015’s Ex Machina. Most recently we’ve seen an AI-meets-the-wild-west scenario in TV series Westworld.
Writers do a great job of making AI entertaining, but does it work the other way around? Can AI itself create, develop and write storylines, scripts and other art forms?
AI is spreading into every corner of human existence. So it should come as no surprise that it’s helping authors, journalists and writers to create in ever more inventive ways.
How AI can improve writing
AI can already help improve our writing skills. For example, the Hemingway Appis an online writing editor created in 2013. It uses natural language processing (NLP) to recognize common writing problems and increase readability. And, yes, it re-wrote this paragraph.
Anyone with a basic knowledge of plot structure can easily predict the ending of most Hollywood movies. The famous ‘three-act’ structure goes something like this: establish protagonist and identify the problem, show protagonist’s attempt to resolve the problem leading to worsening situation, then resolve problem. To put it another way: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl.
Armed with these commonly used structures, can a computer be taught how to construct stories and scripts? That’s the question behind the work of the Computational Story Lab at the University of Vermont, where researchers are analyzing novels to identify the building blocks of all stories.
Inspired by legendary author Kurt Vonnegut’s lecture on the shapes of stories and how they could be taught to computers, this AI is based upon sentiment-based text analysis.
As with most recent advances in AI, this one is down to surges in both big data and computer processing power.
“By classifying the emotional arcs for a filtered subset of 1,327 stories from Project Gutenberg‘s fiction collection, we find a set of six core emotional arcs which form the essential building blocks of complex emotional trajectories,” say the authors of the The emotional arcs of stories are dominated by six basic shapes.