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Is storytelling ripe for AI rewrite?

Deep-Story: Artificial Intelligence and Next Generation Storytelling

I am an author and screenwriter and love the creative process – from the first inspiration to the finished book and film. Currently the mystical dance with the muse can take years and includes many highs and even more lows which test the perseverance of the writer. Almost each book or film is a labor of love or as Ernest Hemmingway said: To write is easy. Just sit in front of your typewriter and bleed.

AI is a tool that is going to disrupt the arts and entertainment space fundamentally.

The next generation of storytellers might not be able to bleed anymore nor do they have to. Machines could replace human storytellers, just like self-driving cars could take over the roads. The short-film Sunspring premiered at the Sci-Fi Festival in London in 2016. It’s about three people living in the future, possibly on a space station, probably in a love triangle. It could be a typical sci-fi B-movie, with an incoherent plot. Except that Sunspring was written entirely by AI. It was authored by a recurrent neural network called long short-term memory ( LSTM). The AI named itself Benjamin. Film-critics noted that the dialogue often sounds like a random series of unrelated sentences. Until the technology advances, screenwriters might not be fully redundant. A less extreme scenario is therefore currently unfolding: machines working alongside humans to improve the storytelling process. Humans need to take the lead in this relationship, is the researcher and AI expert Luba Elliott convinced. She says ‘writers go to school and read a lot of books which becomes part of their dataset’. AI doesn’t have the childhood of a writer or other different kinds of experiences. There will always be the important role of the artist who uses the AI tool. Artists have a lot of influence in the human-machine process of co-creation through the dataset they pick and the algorithms they choose. Because a machine only sees a reservoir, the data you’ve chosen to give it.

Machines don’t cry during sad stories, but they can tell when we will

Netflix and other streaming services have been using AI tools for a couple of years. Sami Arpa is the CEO of LARGO, a Swiss company which has developed an AI tool for next generation storytelling and moviemaking for independent producers. He believes that human creativity is the most fundamental element of moviemaking and sees AI as a helpful assistance tool during the creative process. The software can provide film-producers with insights about content, casting, audience and financial information, which makes it easier to identify potential problems and risks. It also proposes alternatives to help the producers to consider the different options.

The creative director Pietro Gagliano is convinced that AI tools can help to use the past to predict the future. ‘Artists need to grasp that AI will challenge them creatively, he says. It’s better for artists and creatives to see it as a new tool, which can make them even more creative than they already are. Not, ‘this thing’s going to steal my job’. It might be a tough transition though. AI is a tool that is going to disrupt the arts and entertainment space fundamentally.

The philosopher Roberto Simanowski is known for his research about AI and storytelling. He has been awarded the Tractatus-prize of the Philosophicum in Lech/Austria for his essay about the ethics of algorithms and narration (Todesalgorithmus: Die Fiktionen der künstlichen Intelligenz). Roberto Simanowski warns that AI could actually be much smarter than we think. Artificial intelligence is not only faster than human intelligence but also wiser. The exponential ability to learn, unconstrained by time and space, which experts speculate that AI might possess, might just surpass the objective spirit of humanity, which will always remain conditioned and limited. 

The transfer of power from human beings to algorithms is not something we should take lightly. As Plato pointed out: those who tell the stories rule society.

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Written By

Claudia Rinke is currently a fellow at the Pratt Institute in New York (Mindfulness Collaboratory). In her project she explores media co-creation with non-human systems. Claudia is also an award-winning and bestselling author and screenwriter. Her film NOW about the climate movement won the international GOLDEN NYMPH AWARD 2021 as best environmental documentary. Previously she has worked internationally with the UN, which also feeds into her creative work.


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