Joshua fell asleep on our flight within moments of taking off. Headphones in his ears he looked like an angel. His headache must have vanished.
Suddenly I had a bad feeling I was not going to sleep anytime soon.
I was right.
After a miserable flight, Joshua took a bus to his apartment. I was to join him later in the week.
He had a safe house downtown on Madison and a door on the bottom floor. I walked through the front door, unsure of what I was doing or who I was really. I held my head up and walked upstairs to his apartment.
I was walking on air when I entered his place. It was just as he had said. The walls were covered in paintings, some posters, and a neat pile of comics. It smelled like Joshua. The sofa was covered in a mess of toys and books, just like Joshua. He was sitting on the floor in front of his painting. His eyes were glued to a project he was working on. I felt a surge of electricity move through me.
Josh looked up. I started walking towards him, smiling. He looked away. His eyes turned red, I could almost hear the slap. He suddenly started laughing hysterically. The door behind him started banging and he jumped.
“What the hell, Joshua? Are you insane? What are you doing?” I turned and looked at his project.
Joshua smiled at me, wiping his eyes.
“This,” he smiled.
The project was quite simple really. It was a large wall. All you did was put your hand in a doorway, and your hand would transform into a large monster.
What Was That? AI Fiction.
Except for the highlighted text above, everything else was written by the neural network behind Inferkit.com without any further prompting or editing. My sole role in the process was to keep hitting “generate text” to allow the neural network to continue adding 200 characters at a time. The only filter I set was to “fiction.”
Is that great writing? No. Not really. But it is certainly a fairly impressive display of what I would define as artificial intelligence. Might it be an interesting start to something or as a prompt for my own writing? Why not? With a few edits, feeding this back into the neural network might likely result in a more coherent story. It might not. Making small edits to the generated text as it proceeds might accomplish the same thing. It is just generating what it thinks comes next. Looking at this from a creative standpoint, it’s just throwing out ideas.
So, I decided to make a few minor changes to the settings and try the experiment one more time. What follows below is the result of the same process, only this time I set the Nucleus sampling “top p” to 0.94 and the character limit to 290. Nucleus sampling is “a probability threshold for discarding unlikely text in the sampling process. For example, 0.9 means that at each step only the most likely tokens with probabilities adding up to 90% will be sampled from.” I also checked the “pause at end” option. When this is checked, the text generation will pause where the neural network thinks the text should end.
Here is the second result, again with just what is in bold as the sole prompt:
Joshua fell asleep on our flight within moments of taking off. Headphones in his ears he looked like he was in his own little world. I leaned over and gently nudged him. “Son. I’m tired too, sweetheart. We should go to the bathroom and let you to sleep. This is a long flight.”
Joshua had been walking around the plane since they had boarded and hadn’t taken his headphones off for a second. I took my hand to shake his and whispered, “When we come back from the bathroom, go back to your seat and I’ll get your headphones for you, okay?”
He shook his head. “No. I want to stay up. Please. Please.”
I nodded. “Okay, sweetheart. Please go to the bathroom. But listen. I’m coming back. I promise.” I kissed him on his cheek and pulled out my headphones.
A middle-aged man was in the next row over and he noticed Joshua sitting in his seat. He stood up and walked over. He was out of his seat and standing by Joshua in just a few steps. His hands grabbed Joshua from the back and wrapped them in a big bear hug around his shoulders. Joshua looked over at me and I gave him a half-hearted smile. I couldn’t help but stare at this strange man in my seat and feel a bit uncomfortable.
“Miss, my son is a very good boy. He doesn’t eat meat. He goes to a private school so he is good with respect to other people.” The man’s teeth were clean and white and his suit looked new. His eyes darted between Joshua’s face and mine. I shifted in my seat to keep an eye on Joshua.
“Okay, well your son is a good boy and he likes vegetables. Come, let’s go to the bathroom,” I said as I shook the man’s hand. He kept a tight grip on Joshua, but Joshua didn’t seem scared of the man or even flinch when he rubbed Joshua’s back.
OK That Was Weird
Again, is this great writing? No. In fact, it’s quite a bit more strange than the first attempt. But in concert with a human writer who is using the neural network as a kind of creative assistant, I am convinced even this generator would be a positive addition to someone’s creative process. Providing a steady stream of ideas, the randomness of the results can help break through moments of creative block. And who knows? Maybe one of the random ideas will turn out to be a stroke of genius. For the record, those last three highlighted sentences were actually written by the “sentence expander” template at Jasper.ai. It expands a short sentence or a few words into multiple sentences. It’s one of my favorite templates.
All of this AI text generation, by the way, is ridiculously fast, so deleting and/or creating multiple options is practically frictionless. And currently, it’s a bit limited. At present, the Inferkit.com generator “can only understand a certain amount of text at a time (currently at most 3000 characters) so if you give it a longer prompt then it won’t use the beginning.”
I’m still sitting on this plane as I type. Joshua really did fall asleep within minutes. And since he just woke up, I’m letting him read everything above. He wanted to see a live demonstration of how this worked, so I typed a new prompt into Inferkit.com (highlighted below) with the same settings.
I‘m talking to my son, Joshua, right now. He’s watching me type this.
What did your mom teach you about the internet?
Well, she taught me to have an opinion. She taught me to have a critical eye, so I’m not gonna let anybody off the hook. And I’m not gonna let anybody take the lead on this thing without a critical eye. That’s a Mom thing.
My mom never had much of a computer, so she wasn’t that up to speed on it. I was the one doing the Facebook, blogging, you know, editing all the Facebook stuff she posted. And I was the one who was on Twitter. And I had an affinity for it, so she said, “Yeah, go ahead and make your own.” That was her crazy reasoning. “You should be on Twitter.”
Yeah, go ahead and do it, because everybody else is on it.
What’s The Point?
Why am I doing this? Well, I’m the curious sort. I like feeding my curiosity by experimenting with new technology and trying to understand how it might be practically applied. Like most people, I learn best when I’m in play mode. So what’s really happening in these blog posts is that I’m simply playing out in the open. That’s it.
I hope you’re enjoying the playtime as much as I am. As always, I welcome your comments.