AI-assisted writing

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

GPT-2 is an AI that can process and generate text in multiple ways:

GPT-2 translates text, answers questions, summarizes passages, and generates text output on a level that, while sometimes indistinguishable from that of humans, can become repetitive or nonsensical when generating long passages.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPT-2

It can “autocomplete” a given text, and although it’s unlikely that it will spit out a complete and sensible story given just the first sentence I thought it might be fun to use it to prompt the direction of the story.

I used this web interface: https://transformer.huggingface.co/doc/distil-gpt2

My goal was to write a science fiction comedy story and decided on the prompt “someone on a hike alone in the woods meets a friendly alien”. Here’s the first paragraph:

[Me] Joe stood in the sunlight-dappled forest glade and let his gaze wander over the natural beauty on display, then did a double-take when he noticed a little gray alien waving and smiling at him.

I dropped that into the page and pressed TAB, which gave me a number of different choices every time. A lot of them are pretty nonsensical or just word salad:

[GPT-2] It wasn’t the alien, it was the green, and it was a different type of alien that had been lurking in the forest for a long time.

There’s a sliver of sense in this but mostly nonsense. Passed on it.

[GPT-2] He quickly put his hands on his back and stood with the rest of the pack to wait for him to come home.

Here the AI seems to think Joe is wolf or something. It’s like bits and pieces of several stories were thrown into this sentence. Not useful.

[GPT-2] The creature, whose head appeared to be glowing, was apparently from a species called the “Havens” who grew up in the forests of the Northern Hemisphere.

Interesting choice to give the alien a glowing head! I like the implication that these beings are known to Joe and there’s a whole bunch of them, and they even have a species name, but it’s a bit too much all at once.

[GPT-2] “He’s here,“ he said, shaking his head.

Short and sensible, and also it adds a cool twist: Joe actually knows the alien, and he’s more annoyed rather than surprised or afraid to see it. I ran with this and wrote a bit more text myself:

[Me] Joe rubbed his temple in annoyance and grimaced as he saw the small being approach him. Its spindly legs ended in shiny plastic half spheres where a human would have feet. These made a clop-clop-clop noise as it walked over the undergrowth. The alien was wearing a white rubber onesie that looked more like sleepwear than a space suit. Its smooth gray face with a tiny slit of a nose, a thin-lipped wide mouth and huge fully black eyes was unobscured by a helmet. Joe waited with his hands on his hips until the alien came to a stop uncomfortably close to him, less than meter away.

And this is where I stopped getting anything sensible out of the AI. Maybe I’ll try again with the next version of GPT.

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