Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

2: AI Can Write Novels and Screenplays Better than the Pros!

AI help, not hype: Software can automatically generate word sequences based on material fed in from existing scripts. But with what result?
googleplus Google+
arroba Email
Sunspring (2016)
Sunspring (2016)

“AI rites reel gud!” Seriously, the idea is not new. Back in the 1940s, George Orwell (1903–1950) thought that a machine could write popular novels so long as no creative thinking was involved. Thus, in his 1984 police state world, one of the central characters has a job minding a machine that mass produces them. In the 1960s, some film experiments were done along these lines, using Westerns (cowboy stories). At the time, there were masses of formula-based film material to work with in this popular genre.

But what does the product look and sound like? In 2016, Ars Technica was proud to sponsor “the first AI-written sci-fi script:

As explained in The Guardian, a recurrent neural network “was fed the scripts of dozens of science fiction movies including such classics as Highlander Endgame, Ghostbusters, Interstellar and The Fifth Element.” Sunspring, the title of the AI-written play, was computed after the trained neural network was given a “set of prompts.” The Guardian writer terms the resulting script “gibberish.”

Here’s a description from sponsor Ars Technica:

Ars is excited to be hosting this online debut of Sunspring, a short science fiction film that’s not entirely what it seems. It’s about three people living in a weird future, possibly on a space station, probably in a love triangle. You know it’s the future because H (played with neurotic gravity by Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch) is wearing a shiny gold jacket, H2 (Elisabeth Gray) is playing with computers, and C (Humphrey Ker) announces that he has to “go to the skull” before sticking his face into a bunch of green lights. It sounds like your typical sci-fi B-movie, complete with an incoherent plot. Except Sunspring isn’t the product of Hollywood hacks—it was written entirely by an AI. To be specific, it was authored by a recurrent neural network called long short-term memory, or LSTM for short. At least, that’s what we’d call it. The AI named itself Benjamin. AnnaLee Newitz, “Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense” at Ars Technica

It is “hilarious” if watching traffic cracks you up and “intense” if Barney the Dinosaur keeps you on the edge of your seat. The enjoyment comes from watching an actor interpret and convey emotions even when the dialog is meaningless.

Here’s an excerpt from the screenplay:

He starts to shake.

H: It may never be forgiven, but that is just too bad. I have to leave, but I’m not free of the world.

C: Yes. Perhaps I should take it from here. I’m not going to do something.

H: You can’t afford to take this anywhere. It’s not a dream. But I’ve got a good time to stay there.

C: Well, I think you can still be back on the table.

H: Mmm. It’s a damn thing scared to say. Nothing is going to be a thing but I was the one that got on this rock with a child and then I left the other two.

He is standing in the stars and sitting on the floor. He takes a seat on the counter and pulls the camera over to his back. He stares at it. He is on the phone. He cuts the shotgun from the edge of the room and puts it in his mouth. He sees a black hole in the floor leading to the man on the roof. (copied December 31, 2018)

Is the script hilarious? Only in its stupidity. Intense? No. It’s not even interesting.

Such AI written prose was parodied by @KeatonPatti who tweets,

I forced a bot to watch over 1,000 hours of lawyer commercials and then asked it to write a lawyer commercial of its own.

Here is the first page.


A LAWYER stands next to a shelf with books. The books are very wide. They have eaten too
many words.

The LAWYER says:

Have you been hurt in an accidental car? Has the government sold your lungs without asking nicely? Are you Mesothelioma? Answer me!

The lawyer opens a briefcase. It’s full of lemons, the justice fruit only lawyers may touch. If so, you can act entitled for money. I’ll help. I graduated from lawn school and all my teachers were bitten by dogs.

Words scroll across bottom of the screen. These are cases the layer takes: UNFAIR

No, it’s not tense, but I do find Patti’s tweet to be a hilariously accurate parody.

Image result for christmas images public domainThis year, in an interesting experiment, another team tried AI-generated Christmas movie synopses:


A family of the Christmas terrorist and offering the first time to be a charlichhold for a new town to fight.

A story of home-life father of the Christmas story.

The reclusive from Christmas.

A woman from chaos adopted home believes.

A princess ogre nearby cross by on the Christmas.

A gardener detective but country murderer magical suddenly Christmas the near elf. Karen Hao, “We tried teaching an AI to write Christmas movie plots. Hilarity ensued. Eventually.” at Technology Review

Smithsonian Magazine also offered AI-generated Christmas carols along the lines of ““Syllabub Chocolatebells,” “Cinnamon Hollybells,” “Peaches Twinkleleaves,” “Cocoa Jollyfluff” and “Merry Jinglelog.” But this idea too had been anticipated in 1968 by “The Computer’s First Christmas Card.”

It turns out that meaning matters. So. fiction and song writers, please do keep writing. Don’t leave us with just this stuff in 2019.

Note: There are web sites that compose close to normal technical prose, using an expert system approach. The most popular is SCIgen,
an automatic computer science paper generator. If you are interested, check it out.

See also: 2018 AI Hype Countdown 3: With Mind-reading AI, You Will Never Have Secrets Again! AI help, not hype: Did you read about the flap they had to cut out of a volunteer’s skull? With so many new developments in AI, the real story is usually far down in the fine print. And not a close match with the headlines.

2018 AI Hype Countdown 4: Making AI Look More Human Makes It More Human-like! AI help, not hype: Technicians can do a lot these days with automated lip-syncs and smiles but what’s behind them? This summer, some were simply agog over “Sophia, the First Robot Citizen” (“unsettling as it is awe-inspiring”)…

2018 AI Hype Countdown 4: Making AI Look More Human Makes It More Human-like! AI help, not hype: Technicians can do a lot these days with automated lip-syncs and smiles but what’s behind them? This summer, some were simply agog over “Sophia, the First Robot Citizen” (“unsettling as it is awe-inspiring”)…

2018 AI Hype Countdown 5: AI Can Fight Hate Speech! AI help, not hype: AI can carry out its programmers’ biases and that’s all. Putting these kinds of decisions in the hands of software programs is not likely to promote vigorous and healthy debate.

2018 AI Hype Countdown 6: AI Can Even Find Loopholes in the Code! AI help, not hype: AI adopts a solution in an allowed set, maybe not the one you expected.

2018 AI Hype Countdown 7: Computers can develop creative solutions on their own! AI help, not hype: Programmers may be surprised by which solution, from a range they built in, comes out on top Sometimes the results are unexpected and even surprising. But they follow directly from the program doing exactly what the programmer programmed it to do. It’s all program, no creativity.

2018 AI Hype Countdown 8: AI Just Needs a Bigger Truck! AI help, not hype: Can we create superintelligent computers just by adding more computing power? Some think computers could greatly exceed human intelligence if only we added more computing power. That reminds me of an old story…

2018 AI Hype Countdown 9: Will That Army Robot Squid Ever Be “Self-Aware”? The thrill of fear invites the reader to accept a metaphorical claim as a literal fact.

2018 AI Hype Countdown: 10. Is AI really becoming “human-like”?: AI help, not hype: Here’s #10 of our Top Ten AI hypes, flops, and spins of 2018 A headline from the UK Telegraph reads “DeepMind’s AlphaZero now showing human-like intuition in historical ‘turning point’ for AI” Don’t worry if you missed it.

Robert J. Marks II, Ph.D., is Distinguished Professor of Engineering in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Baylor University.  Marks is the founding Director of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence and hosts the podcast Mind Matters. He is the Editor-in-Chief of BIO-Complexity and the former Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks. He served as the first President of the IEEE Neural Networks Council, now the IEEE Computational Intelligence Society. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and a Fellow of the Optical Society of America. His latest book is Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics coauthored with William Dembski and Winston Ewert. A Christian, Marks served for 17 years as the faculty advisor for CRU at the University of Washington and currently is a faculty advisor at Baylor University for the student groups the American Scientific Affiliation and Oso Logos, a Christian apologetics group.