Sometimes when you watch a film you can feel real empathy for what characters are going through, seeing them struggle with the trials and tribulations of their lives. That’s something that’s quite strong in the first short film ever written by an A.I. algorithm, but more so because the characters just seem confused by the words spilling out of their mouths.
The film in question is Sunspring, a sort science fiction movie about three people living in a bizarre, future world. There seems to be some sexual tension among the trio, a question of loyalty and a suggestion that nobody is really quite sure what they’re saying. The only ‘person’ who does know for sure is the ‘person’ who wrote it: an A.I. known as Short-Long-Term-Memory, or as he prefers to be called, Benjamin.
Benjamin is an recurrent-neural-network algorithm designed for text recognition, so its outputs are very much dependant on its inputs. So what would happen if you fed him movies? That’s exactly what developer Ross Goodwin did, by giving him screenplays from tens of ’80s and ’90s movies and many episodes of TV shows like X-Files and Stargate SG1.
Benjamin was soon able to predict the next letters and words in sequences and eventually come up with its own ideas of what should come next, even including stage directions and dialogue. That was when Goodwin’s friend and director, Oscar Sharp came along and decided to make a movie out of the screenplay that Benjamin was writing.
And Sunspring is the result of that. It even made it to the finals of a Sci-Fi London filmmaking contest, but received very few votes from the audience at the end. However the filmmakers discovered that this was because other directors were using A.I. bots of their own to vote for their own films, so they had Benjamin do something similar.
My god, what have we created…
As Ars breaks down, this lead to Benjamin crushing the competition and when Sharp and Goodwin called the organisers to explain that their algorithm had gone rogue and power mad, Benjamin was eventually interviewed on stage. Clearly his intentions for this world are far more holy than we imagined:
When asked, “What is the future of machine written entertainment?” he replied:
“It’s a bit sudden. I was thinking of the spirit of the men who found me and the children who were all manipulated and full of children. I was worried about my command. I was the scientist of the Holy Ghost.”
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KitGuru Says: Although this does leave me a little concerned that even my job might be at risk of an A.I. takeover one day, at least we can look forward to mind bending movies written by the digital writers of the future.