A novel by Artificial Intelligence, would you read it?

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Published by FirstAlign

I always thought that Artificial Intelligence (AI) was for those repetitive intelligence tasks, not for creativity. I was wrong! The other day I read about this book, not any book but a novel.

A novel written by AI!

Is AI entering the creative space? Can it write a novel, and would you read it?

The making of an author

In 2017, a novelist went on a road trip across the USA, from Brooklyn to New Orleans. Ross Goodwin, the novelist, traveled in his black Cadillac to find something to write about. Unlike other writers he used AI.

Goodwin fitted his car with a GPS, a microphone, and a camera. Throughout the journey, Neural Networks are fed with data from the GPS, camera, microphone, and computer’s internal clock. Goodwin trained the Neural Networks on hundreds of books and location data. The printer would then print out pages of script for the novel.

Thus, Artificial Intelligence (AI) wrote its first experimental novel, 1 the Road. Emulating Jack Kerouac‘s On the Road). Godwin’s publishers, Jean Boîte Éditions, marketed it as the first novel written by a machine. The book begins with “It was nine seventeen in the morning, and the house was heavy.” Now, what do you think of that?

According to Goodwin “This is a beautiful line in my opinion. In this case, the seed was the time—everything that comes after ‘nine seventeen’ was generated from the time.”

Can data produce art?

Clock registered time, location data, and other data from the sensors were sent into the Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) algorithm. Goodwin ingested 60 million words of raw literature into this LSTM. According to Goodwin, it included one third poetry, one third science fiction, and one third “bleak” fiction.

The source materials influenced the AI’s vocabulary, writing style, and hence the tone of the novel.

The system would form sentences letter by letter. Data from different sensors produced different sentences for prose. Latitude and longitude coordinates transformed as “35.415579526 N, -77.999721808 W, at 154.68504432 feet above sea level, at 0.0 miles per hour. The first flat of the story in the country is the first in the part of the world”.

Images were described in words, “A ski lift business for the last time the train was already being darkened and the street was already there.”

Location from the dataset was remarked upon, “Eagles Nest Diner: an American restaurant in Goldsborough or the Marine Station, a place of fish seemed to be a man who has been assembled for three days”.

The sentences are the results of an independent generative process that occurred at each point in time. They were connected by a road trip and a car that contained sensors dictating the narrative.

Goodwin’s attempt was to the ‘possibility’ of an AI written novel. He says that this was a prototyping project and the output is not perfect.

The future of AI in writing

In 2019, OpenAI released GPT-2 for public consumption. GPT-2 is an AI system that generates text. The objective of GPT-2 is to predict the next word, given all of the previous words within the text. It is a large transformer-based language model using 1.5 billion parameters. It is trained on a dataset of 8 million web pages.

Authors and AI engineers are experimenting with the system to find better solutions to writing. GPT-2 has also given rise to many NaNoGenMo projects.

OpenAI introduced GPT-3 in May 2020 and it was in beta testing until July 2020. The quality of the text generated by GPT-3 is very high. This is a giant leap in language generating AI systems.

Writing a complete novel by AI is still a long way off. AI cannot produce intricate plots, twists, character arcs and angles, but they produce text with elements of prose. For now, AI in writing is more of a collaborator than a competitor.

So, would you read a novel created by AI? Maybe not right now, but there may come a time, you will not know the difference.


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