This article addresses the topics:
- “SINGULARITY IS NEAR”
- DEEP TECHNOLOGY ANGST
- POPULAR USE CASES OF STORYTELLING
- Storytelling and AI – Two hypothetical scenarios
- STORY TURING-TEST AND MACHINE STORYTELLING CONTEST
- HOW CAN AI CONTRIBUTE TO CREATE EXCITING STORIES?
“SINGULARITY IS NEAR”
Technological Singularity is used as a synonym for a state of technological development which makes humans, as they are right now, superfluous for the evolution. Technological Singularity is related predominantly to artificial intelligence (AI). Different authors point to 2045 (Kurzweil) or 2050 (Schmidhuber) as the watershed moment in human history due to “exponential growth” and “exponential acceleration”, as the main drivers for a paradigm shift.
Some additional observations may contribute later to a better understanding of the role of storytelling in the age of artificial intelligence. Remarkable, how philosophical thinkers and technologists take opposing positions to the most disputed state of AI as the core of the technological singularity.
While the “thinkers” like Steven Pinker (there is not the slightest reason to believe in a coming singularity) and John Searle (machinery has no beliefs, desires, motivations) predominantly reject the relevance of a technological singularity, the “technologists” like Vernor Vinge (But if the technological singularity can happen, it will), John von Neumann (…. the ever-accelerating progress of technology … gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue) assume that this technological hyperintelligence will replace human intelligence in the foreseeable future.
From the angle of this consideration: If humans are superfluous, storytelling is as well, correct? Wait a minute, let’s have a closer look into the matter.
DEEP TECHNOLOGY ANGST
Since the dawn of humanity in Africa, new technologies trigger existential angst. The gunpowder, the steam engine, the transportation technologies which shrink distances and travel time to zero, the computer, the internet and many known and forgotten technologies ignited survival fears about the loss of jobs, livelihoods and caused all sort of dooms phantasies.
Take this description about the first railway travel in Germany as an example: “On the first rail journey in Germany on December 7, 1835, which enabled some rich merchants between Nuremberg and Fürth, fear and terror was spread: Some doctors predicted bad brain diseases for anyone traveling by train. Anyway, pneumonia caused by the wind would fetch anyone who would rush through the area at a whopping speed of thirty or even forty kilometers per hour. The toxic smoke from the locomotive would poison people and livestock. The carters and grooms were afraid for their jobs, the innkeepers at the post offices (feared) for their guests. A pastor in the small town of Schwabach had scolded against the railroad from the pulpit: “The railway is a devil’s thing, it comes from hell, and anyone who travels with it, comes down to hell!” Source: Blikk.
Eventually, a new mental disorder was “discovered”, Siderodromophobia (what a tongue-twister!) as the fear of trains, railroads or traveling on trains, also known as Reisenangst, a phobia, so defined by Sigmund Freud. Sounds familiar? Welcome to humanity as it is.
This time, in the age of the coming singularity, the angst is different. Not driven by starvation phantasies but by worries to become superfluous, outmatched by a superior, intelligent being on our own turf, on mother earth. Suddenly humanity has a rival which is said to be soon – figuratively – at the top of the food chain. But this superior superintelligence would not be an intruder from the outer space, it is our own non-biological progeny, the result of human endeavors to create a better human civilization. How to deal with a competitor which is oneself? Will this become a special epical story of parricide? Have we become our worst enemies? Or is there a happy end?
POPULAR USE CASES OF STORYTELLING
To assess, how and where AI does have an impact on storytelling, a brief view of the most familiar use cases of storytelling is helpful.
- CULTURE: Literature, Tales
- LIFE EXPERIENCE: Motivation, Faith, Morals
- HUMAN RELATIONS, EDUCATION, Personality Development, Leadership, Therapy
- SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, PHILOSOPHY: Systems Thinking, Design Thinking, New Technologies, Artificial Intelligence. In particular: explanatory description of difficult-to-understand content such as data, scientific findings (f. ex. Storytelling with Data”)
- ECONOMY: Marketing, Product Development
STORYTELLING AND AI – TWO HYPOTHETICAL SCENARIOS
Given the significance of storytelling due to the described use cases, will storytelling-as-we-know disappear with the rise of artificial intelligence? Or will it prevail?
- SINGULARITY BECOMES THE MAIN DRIVER IN EVOLUTION:
A doomsday from a human perspective, which wants to be irreplaceable, immortal as a species. Machines do not need any human language, they communicate “algorithms” and “data” as their universal lingua franca. With the “end of humanity”, storytelling would die out as well.
- THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HUMANITY FOR EVOLUTION WILL REMAIN:
Singularity and humanity-as-we-know exist side by side together in a cohabitation. Even a humanity-in-retirement, replaced by a technological singularity as the main driver of evolution, will not just disappear from the surface of the earth or other colonized planets, but prevail in its own right.
My take: It is very unlikely, an AI-driven singularity will replace humanity completely. A singularity, human-made, was taught lessons about ecosystems. As long as humanity exists, one way or another, storytelling will exist too.
A STORY TURING-TEST AND A MACHINE STORYTELLING CONTEST
How to understand better the new age of storytelling with AI, how to accommodate new perspectives and machines as competitors? Two proposals:
- STORY-TURING TEST:
Tell six short stories about a set theme, three elaborated by humans, three by machines, to a human audience which has to find out which ones were made by whom. If the machine-made stories are no longer distinguishable to human-stories, the equivalent of the original Turing Test is accomplished. This experiment can be extended to longer stories, up to novels.
- MACHINE STORYTELLING CONTEST:
Let machines contest about the best artificial storyteller. Unlike at the Computer World Chess Championship, the jury is human.
HOW CAN AI CONTRIBUTE TO CREATE EXCITING STORIES?
A story is the core of a publishable content. Storytelling can be improved by methods, techniques, how to create a successful story. Publishable content can be improved by tools due to the class of content, if as a written text, an audible, a video clip, augmented reality, virtual reality. AI will contribute to creating better stories. Though some authors assert machine storytelling can outwit a human audience right now, others are predicting more cautiously better stories but do not see an AI Shakespeare at the horizon.
Have a look at some AI based experiences and their use for storytelling – chances, and limitations.
- IMPROVING STORYTELLING WITH TOOLS.
Several tools like Dragon Dictation, Grammarly, Articoolo, are great little helpers in everyday life of storytellers.
- EMOTIONAL ARCS OF STORYTELLING
“There is no reason why the simple shapes of stories can’t be fed into computers,” (Kurt Vonnegard, 1995). At the Computational Story Lab at the University of Vermont in Burlington, 1,700 stories were analyzed to reveal the most common arcs. “We find a set of six core trajectories which form the building blocks of complex narratives,”
- To write like Tina Fey or Hemmingway? Botnik is a community of writers, artists, and developers using machines to create things on and off the internet. A quite interesting adventure.
- AI WRITING A MOVIE SCREENPLAY?
Quite an experience: Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense.
- INTERACTION BETWEEN HUMAN AND MACHINE
Andrew Stern, Playable.ai, demonstrates a stunning new experience for storytellers, as an interaction between an AI participant and a human participant in a digital story.
AI will lead to more and better stories, AI-supported tools will motivate more potential storytellers to become real storytellers. Presumably, they are godfathers of a new global storytelling culture.
ADDENDUM: Ray Kurzweil and Elon Musk, though quite different in their technological visions are both magnificent storytellers. They are no machines, I believe.