Computer 'Aesop' Writes Fables With A Moral

An computer 'Aesop' with artificial intelligence can write its own moral tales.

The research was done by University of New South Wales PhD candidate Margaret Sarlej. Her Moral Storytelling System creates fables around particular combinations of 22 different emotions or desires felt by the characters.

"A human author simply decides an interesting emotional path for the story, and the computer does the rest," Sarlej says.

"The computer decides the events to elicit those emotional responses from the characters, and the characters do whatever the plot needs them to do."

A psychological model known as OCC, named after its creators Ortony, Clore and Collins, determines the emotions.

Sarlej's computer program is based on a logical translation of the OCC model.

The result is a kind of high-tech version of the famed Ancient Greek storyteller Aesop, which the researchers hope will advance their cause to make computers capable of authoring stories with ever-growing sophistication and complexity.

Here's an example of the Moral Storytelling System in action, on the theme of moral retribution:

Once upon a time there lived a unicorn, a knight and a fairy. The unicorn loved the knight.

One summer's morning the fairy stole the sword from the knight. As a result, the knight didn't have the sword anymore. The knight felt distress that he didn't have the sword anymore. The knight felt anger towards the fairy about stealing the sword because he didn't have the sword anymore. The unicorn and the knight started to hate the fairy.

The next day the unicorn kidnapped the fairy. As a result, the fairy was not free. The fairy felt distress that she was not free.

Sf writers have long enjoyed teasing us with the idea of machine-generated fiction. In his 1971 story Studio 5, The Stars, J.G. Ballard described a verse transcriber, which created poetry on command:

"...Hold on," I told him. I was pasting down one of Xero's satirical pastiches of Rubert Brooke and was six lines short. I handed Tony the master tape and he played it into the IBM, set the meter, rhyme scheme, verbal pairs, and then switched on, waited for the tape to chunter out of the delivery head, tore off six lines and passed them back to me. I didn't even need to read them.

For the next two hours we worked hard, at dusk had completed over 1,000 lines and broke off for a well-earned drink.

In his 1971 story The Penultimate Truth, Philip K. Dick described a Rhetorizer, which created speeches on command:

...he seated himself at the rhetorizer, touched its on-tab...

At the keyboard of the rhetorizer he typed, carefully, the substantive he wanted. Squirrel. Then, after a good two minutes of sluggish, deep thought, the limiting adjective smart.

"OK," he said, and sat back, and touched the rerun tab.

The rhetorizer, as Colleen reentered the room with her tall drink, began to construct for him in the aud-dimension. "It is a wise old squirrel," it said tinnily (it possessed only a two-inch speaker), "and yet its wisdom is not its own; nature has endowed it-"

In his 1948 novel 1984, George Orwell described a novel-writing machine, which created fiction for the masses:

Julia was twenty-six years old... and she worked, as he had guessed, on the novel-writing machines in the Fiction Department. She enjoyed her work, which consisted chiefly in running and servicing a powerful but tricky electric motor... She could describe the whole process of composing a novel, from the general directive issued by the Planning Committee down to the final touching-up by the Rewrite Squad. But she was not interested in the final product. She "didn't much care for reading," she said. Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.

In his 1726 story Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift described a knowledge engine, which created works on divers subjects on command:

He then led me to the frame, about the sides, whereof all his pupils stood in ranks. It was twenty feet square, placed in the middle of the room. The superfices was composed of several bits of wood, about the bigness of a die, but some larger than others. They were all linked together by slender wires. These bits of wood were covered, on every square, with paper pasted on them; and on these papers were written all the words of their language, in their several moods, tenses, and declensions; but without any order. The professor then desired me “to observe; for he was going to set his engine at work.” The pupils, at his command, took each of them hold of an iron handle, whereof there were forty fixed round the edges of the frame; and giving them a sudden turn, the whole disposition of the words was entirely changed...

As far as I know, Swift's is the earliest reference to this idea.

Via unsw.edu.au press release.

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