Understanding How AI Can Impact our Stories
The stories we create and engage with are now no longer solely human generated. Artificial intelligence is powering new tools that creators can use to worldbuild for linear and interactive stories. With the impact that AI can have on the stories we are exposed to, inspired and persuaded by, it is essential that both creators and audiences understand how AI can impact our stories. Sandra Rodriguez is driven to do just that with her latest production, CHOM5KY vs CHOMSKY.
The Importance of Demystifying AI
The very purpose of CHOM5KY vs CHOMSKY is to demystify AI. This experience immerses audience members in a virtual world where they are able to interact with CHOM5KY, described as an artificial entity inspired by and built from the vast array of digital traces of renowned professor Noam Chomsky, to gain perspective on how AI intersects with humanity.
Rodriguez explains that this “new space for creation” created by the advancement in AI tools “belongs to everyone.” She cautions that “by not taking part in questioning it, we’re not helping to keep it open and inclusive. “It's often been the role of artists to disrupt tools, disrupt media, and change the ways we conceive of the future together… We, ultimately, are capable to change what AI is today, and what it will become. Artists are great at helping others realize how different our collective, shared imaginaries can be.“
“AI systems are currently labeled ‘creative’ or a ‘threat to creators’.... I also see [AI] as an opportunity. It’s a new medium and as such it's an opportunity to look at what it does”Sandra Rodriguez
AI to Empower Reflection on Societies’ Data
Rodriguez encourages creators to explore how these new tools may inspire them to tell stories.” AI tools can be used to imitate humans based on the data that each tool has been trained on, by producing what it identifies as the most probable answer. But while AI can be used to reflect on existing societal data, creators can leverage this data to create content that both reflects our stories back to us and build stories that show audiences what could be possible.
Rodriguez does not shy away from AI because AI is made up of data that is relevant to “our now.”“An artist's role is to talk about its own society and times, and our times are…fabricated with data”.
Data used to train some AI systems as well as prompts to get AI responses, however, may not lead to fair use of digital traces publicly accessible. In the case of CHOM5KY vs CHOMSKY, Rodriguez ensured a highly fitting and ethical use of digital traces ”Noam Chomsky has one of the largest digital traces available as a living intellectual” Others have digital traces such as transcribed speeches, digital recordings that are accessible but may or may not be traces that systems can legally be trained on. But for Chomsky..”he deeply believes in the sharing of knowledge…. And he insists that when he shares it, it is free of rights.''
Rodriguez agrees that we have a responsibility to “think wisely about the data sets we're using. For instance, even if images are freely accessible online, perhaps you may, as an artist, have ethical restrictions when using prompts that sound like simple IP theft….I've seen creative projects literally name artists, people or companies as "inspiration" in their prompts, which of course, inevitably opens the pandora box of authorship.”
AI Tools as a Part of a Storytellers’ Toolkit
CHOM5KY vs CHOMSKY leverages 10 different AI systems, paired with the large data set of Chomsky’s actual digital traces to provide real and not just probable responses when possible. The tools and digital traces are used in a manner to best support the purpose of the experience. AI technologies offer different tools that allow for elements such as speech to text, text to speech, speech analysis and more. As the experience was developed, Rodriguez made the choice to continue to add on AI tools based on what was beneficial for the story.
“The story and user experience come first and then you choose the systems based on emotions or thoughts you want to convey...that’s how you lead innovation” she explains. Instead of using tools and systems to show how they can replace your creativity, understand them to see how these systems can support your creation.
For creators solely relying on AI tools to create content, this begs the question: Does Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” concept still stand , if the perceived message generated by AI is solely based on probability instead of human purpose?
Adding Humanity to Characters and Stories
Chomsky is vocal about AI platforms like ChatGPT creating “sophisticated plagiarism”, and Rodriguez was careful to ensure that the CHOM5KY that audiences interact with in her experience is not intended to be perceived as Chomsky himself. “I would love to have Chomsky speak to the Chomsky with a 5” Sandra shared. CHOM5KY never “pretends to be ”Noam Chomsky” as language is afterall “just the output.”
Audience members are educated on what is real and what is not as a part of the location based experience because in most cases, audience members cannot detect this on their own. “My pleasure, in these moments” says Rodriguez “is to reveal that it takes human intelligence to make a chatbot sound human... it's a skill of knowing how to drive attention in a conversation, how to guide people's thoughts in certain directions, rather than always trying to "please" or be of service... My feeling is that we keep promising we'll be impressed by chatbots trained to be "people pleasers"... it is where I am confident AI can never replace storytellers, scriptwriters, directors, artists... It's one thing to know how to answer the phone. It is another to guide the attention of an audience. “
Real characters are inspired by real humans. It can be dangerous to let audiences feel like they are interacting with others, when they are not, especially as this can lead to scenarios where, for example, AI is persuading audiences to believe in untrue or harmful stories. When it comes to integrating interactable virtual beings into mediums like games or immersive narratives, their characters can of course still add value to story experiences.
Identifying What Can and Cannot Be Controlled
Creators must be wary of the lack of control they have over what AI systems may do with content, especially interactive experiences.
“Don't get me wrong - as a creator of interactive experiences, you need to learn to "let go" of your creation” shares Rodriquez. “Participants are not only "reacting" to content you put out there, but contributing to how it evolves, unravels, is seen, experienced, etc. That control, I feel comfortable with. But when the audience doesn't really understand the medium, and when said AI systems, for instance, can drastically change because of decisions made in changes of filters, at Open AI, for instance...then it really becomes another kind of challenge. You could test a creative AI experience in so many ways, and conceive of so many different forms of interactions with it, but it also relies heavily on services that can change from one day to the next, with no transparency whatsoever (for instance, when using DALL·E 3, Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, Open AI, changing, restricting, adding or removing filters can have a radical, unwanted effect on a creation if this is done live).
AI Tools to Engage Audiences In New Ways
Rodriguez’ is currently working across four projects that leverage AI tools. “I'm personally really curious and excited about sound emulation and generation” she explains. After exploring the human mind with AI, and even dance and body movement augmented by AI with the project called Future Rites, her new projects are exploring sound, and the impact of current AI developments.
There is something to be said about how the investment in creating AI-based experiences can potentially unlock multiple means for audiences to engage with story worlds, and their characters. “My best conversations with CHOM5KY are often when I am testing it completely outside of the experience…like a non-stop exchange” shared Rodriguez. This leads to the question - what can extended interactions with ‘platforms’ like CHOM5KY, built on real digital traces and AI, help us and our stories of humanity with?