A Silicon Hemingway:Artificial Author Brutus.1 Generates Betrayal By Bits

March 11, 1998

A synthetic author the likes of Proust, Joyce, or Kafka may not be in the future, but Brutus.1--an artificial agent capable of story generation--just wrote its first story about betrayal.

Named because the literary concept it specializes in is betrayal, Brutus.1 is the world's most advanced story generator. It can generates stories of less than 500 words like "Betrayal" (below) based on the notions of deception, evil, and to some extent voyeurism.

Selmer Bringsjord, associate professor of philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science and director of the Minds and Machines program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, started working on the problem of building a sophisticated artificial author in 1991. A four-year, $300,000 grant from the Henry R. Luce foundation funded his initial attack on the problem, which led to earlier systems like Myth-Logical, and also to systems designed by others who worked with him (Gameworld, by David Porush, professor of language, literature, and communication, and Sage, by former professor Marie Meteer).

In collaboration with David Ferrucci, senior scientist at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center, Bringjord devised a formal mathematical definition of betrayal and endowed Brutus.1 with the concept.

In order for Brutus.1 to generate stories outside the concept of betrayal, researchers would need to define mathematically other literary themes such as unrequited love, revenge, jealousy, and patricide.

In the future, the entertainment industry will rely on such artificially intelligent systems, says Bringsjord.

"It is an industry belief that genuinely intelligent stand-alone entertainment systems of the future will require AI systems that know how to create and direct stories," Bringsjord says. "In the virtual gaming worlds of the future, things will unfold too quickly in real time for a human to be guiding the process."

Bringsjord says computers will never best human storytellers. "To tell a truly compelling story, a machine would need to understand the "inner lives" of its characters," he says. "To do that, it would need to think not only mechanically, but also experientially, in the sense of having subjective or phenomenal awareness."

Bringsjord's latest book titled Artificial Intelligence and Literary Creativity-Brutus.1: The State of the Art in Story Generation, co-written by Ferrucci, will be published in 1998 by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Bringsjord is featured in the cover story of the March/April issue of MIT's Technology Review "Chess is Too Easy."For more information about Brutus.1, see Bringsjord's web site http://www.rpi.edu/~brings and for Betrayal and other stories by Brutus .1, visit http://www.rpi.edu/dept/ppcs/BRUTUS/brutus.html.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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