The First AI-written Play Isn’t Shakespeare

The First AI-written Play Isn’t Shakespeare – but It Has Its Moments (



from the wherefore-art-thou dept.

Science magazine describes what happens when a robot writes a play:

The 60-minute productionAI: When a Robot Writes a Play — tells the journey of a character (this time a robot), who goes out into the world to learn about society, human emotions, and even death.

The script was created by a widely available artificial intelligence (AI) system called GPT-2. Created by Elon Musk’s company OpenAI, this “robot” is a computer model designed to generate text by drawing from the enormous repository of information available on the internet. (You can test it here.) So far, the technology has been used to write fake news, short stories, and poems. The play is GPT-2’s first theater production, the team behind it claims…

First, a human feeds the program with a prompt. In this case, the researchers — at Charles University in Prague — began with two sentences of dialogue, where one or two characters chat about human feelings and experiences… The software then takes things from there, generating up to 1000 words of additional text.

The result is far from William Shakespeare. After a few sentences, the program starts to write things that sometimes don’t follow a logical storyline, or statements that contradict other passages of the text. For example, the AI sometimes forgot the main character was a robot, not a human. “Sometimes it would change a male to female in the middle of a dialogue,” says Charles University computational linguist Rudolf Rosa, who started to work on the project 2 years ago… As it keeps going, there is more room for nonsense. To prevent that, the team didn’t let GPT-2 write the entire play at once. Instead, the researchers broke the show down into eight scenes, each less than 5 minutes; each scene also only contained a dialogue between two characters at the same time. In addition, the scientists sometimes changed the text, for example altering the passages where the AI changed the character’s gender from line to line or repeating their initial text prompt until the program spat out sensible prose.

Rosa estimates that 90% of the final script was left untouched, whereas 10% had human intervention.

It’s a thought-provoking experience. (You can watch the whole play online — with English subtitles.) The play’s first lines?

“We both know that I’m dying.”

“How do you know that you’re dying?”

“I will die very soon.”

And within seconds, the protagonist has asked the question: “How can you love someone who dies?”

“Indecision is the basis of flexibility”
— button at a Science Fiction convention.


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