Artificial intelligence and storytelling

Posted on Posted in 2017, Storytelling

The communication equation

I am writing this blog. You are reading it. I’m confident in this simple human equation. I’m not so confident the equation will remain static. Communication has been enhanced by the tools we have created over centuries: cave drawings, the printing press, radio, video, digital bits and bytes.

While communication methods and platforms are variable, we are constant. Communication requires someone to think it, write it, say it and create it. It also requires someone to receive it. Reception and consumption happens on the receiver’s terms. I wrote about this last year when I wrote about on-demand content.

It is now easier to communicate with anyone anywhere and at any time. Each day we are subject to hundreds of communications. Texts. Instant messages. Emails. Press releases. Blogs. Tweets. Videos. Podcasts. Status updates. Until recently we could be sure the writing we read originated from someone else.

The standard equation is changing.


The communication variables

Did you know when you write a blog post or an online article and use a tool like WordPress (which I do), you receive a ‘readability’ score before you publish?

Green means easily readable. Orange means its ok. Red means go back and try again.

My writing is subject to the algorithms and desires of the code that drives the score. It’s not quite artificial intelligence, or AI, but it is artificial and it is influencing my work.

Some of the elements of the readability score are pretty straight forward: sentence length, agreement, active vs passive voice. Others are more obscure. The score tells you if you’ve started consecutive sentences with the same word or words. The score suggests what should stay in and what should come out. The score will hate this paragraph.


Artificial Intelligence_Bad Producer Productions


Did you hear the one about the AI that walked in to the bar?

Of course you didn’t. The AI decided not to tell you about it.

I follow the author Jay Kristoff on Twitter (@misterkristof). Jay lives in Melbourne and writes cutting edge science fiction (Jay featured in episode one of The Garret Podcast… you can hear his thoughts on writing here). He recently tweeted an article from WIRED Magazine headlined 'What news-writing bots mean for the future of journalism'. The article details the evolution of 'AI-powered journalism'.

Jay followed that tweet with this ‘had a long discussion with a buddy deep into Machine Learning recently – he estimates the first AI written novel is about 5 years away.’

When I think about AI and its potential impact on content creation and story-telling, I get excited and a little overwhelmed. There are dozens of tools I use every day that make story-telling easier and more dynamic.

I can use pictures in my tweets to provide a more complete version of events. I can develop, shoot, edit and publish videos with a phone. My phone can determine whether I am shooting people or things and adjust accordingly. Instagram allows me to manipulate my pictures for maximum effect. My ZOOM recorder actually records audio before I push the record button. It is a machine that listens.  

AI will be another tool. Content creators will adjust. The adjusting is already underway. How many of you use Siri or Alexa to help you research?

I embrace the tools that enhance my story-telling. I am grateful we no longer draw by torch light in a cave (although emojis are essentially digital cave drawing). I shudder at the thought of the tools replacing the story-teller because I do believe one day I will receive the digital tap on the shoulder signalling, ‘That’s enough, I’ll take it from here.’