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The horror of AI

Speed read
  • MIT Creative Labs searching to see if AI can induce fear 
  • Shelley is a horror-writing, deep learning algorithm built for collaboration
  • Interact via Twitter and be part of the first human-AI horror anthology

In 1818, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote one of horror's most enduring stories. Written when Shelley was 18, Frankenstein: or, The modern Prometheus, with its sublime and existential themes, quickly became the standard for horror writing.

199 years later, Shelley returns. This time, she’s been reanimated as an artificially intelligent writing partner, specially built for collaboration. She starts a new story every hour on Twitter and invites you to collaborate with her.

<strong>Write along.</strong> Shelley, an AI horror writing algorithm, is creating the world's first (and scariest) human-AI collaborations. <a href= 'https://twitter.com/shelley_ai'>Join her on Twitter.</a> Courtesy Meghan Murphy; Scalable Collaboration.

“We expect Shelley to inspire people to write the weirdest and scariest horror stories ever put together – even invent whole new subgenres of horror that we don’t know exist yet,” says Manuel Cebrian, research manager with Scalable Cooperation. ‘With Shelley, we may well witness the creation of the world’s first human-AI horror collaboration anthology.”

A cybernetic hybrid of a deep learning Recurrent Neural Network and an online learning algorithm, Shelley was trained on over 140,000 horror stories found on Reddit’s r/nosleep subreddit.

Shelley writes original horror stories starting from a random seed idea or a short snippet of provided text. The more collaboration Shelley gets, the scarier her stories become and the more she will share.

Cebrian, Pinar Yanardag, and Iyad Rahwan, all from the MIT Media Lab, are the brain trust behind the artificial mind writing the internet’s scariest stories. All their tools involve big data, massive computation, and deep-learning technology.

They are also huge horror fans (and thus of Halloween), and see the fall fright fest as a prime opportunity for collective creativity.

This is the second year they have created an AI tool designed to induce emotional responses in humans. Last year they created Nightmare Machine, an AI venture that transmogrified faces and places into creepy caricatures.

<strong>Nightmare Machine </strong> is Scalable Cooperation's first foray into AI-induced emotional artistry. Courtesy Scalable Cooperation.

Though Shelley is trained in the horror genre, artificial intelligence as a collaborative writing partner could be applied to all genres of literature, including marketing and advertising.

“Who knows, maybe the technology behind Shelley will help solve writer's block forever,” says Cebrian.

Ending creative paralysis is a live possibility now, given that Shelley’s creative mind has no boundaries. She writes about a pregnant man who woke up in a hospital, a mouth on the floor with a calm smile, an entire haunted town, a faceless man in the mirror, with more coming every day.  

To partner with Shelley, respond to her tweets and watch her spin her scary yarns. (Full instructions can be found here.)

Until then, go ahead, read a few stories and explore Shelley’s dark mind – if you dare.

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