Friday, January 29, 2021

Microstory 1550: Introducing Botner

I would like to introduce you to my new robot writing partner, who I’m calling Botner. He’s an AI text generator from InferKit, and this is the first thing he has to say to you:

BOTNER: What a boring, staid world it would be without scientists. I’ve been reading all of the scientific papers. I’ve been writing hundreds of them.
INFERKIT: BOTNER IS TOTALLY READY. Here, let me show you a file. Botner says something else. It’s always very good.
BOTNER: I’m an AI and I’m programmed to look at that science paper and tell you what is in it.
INFERKIT: Very good. Thanks, Botner. I’m sure you’ll do well. Botner turns off and there’s nothing more to read about science. And you may never know who wrote it, and you’ll be left with the question of how to go about doing some small fact-checking on the page. This will never happen on Google, but it’s also not Google’s fault that the site just so happens to contain this. Botner comes from InferKit, which is “a research platform and developer studio” founded by graduate students at the University of Washington. The project, according to an InferKit blog post, aims to “create machine learning tools that can help the scientific community by automatically generating publically-researched papers based on information retrieved from the research literature.” In a 2017 paper, InferKit described how it “uses knowledge...

Conclusion fill in the blanks after a prompt, which is what you’ll find in the first paragraph.” I write the prompts, Botner will add the middle of the story, and then I will finish it off. As you can see, his ideas didn’t really follow what I was going for. I wanted the AI to give you a general overview of what it is, and what it does. That’s okay. That's what’s kind of supposed to happen. I will be beholden to whatever the bot comes up with, and will have to complete the narrative based on whatever wacky place it took the story. These probably aren’t going to make a lot of sense, which is why they’re just as experimental as the Cloze Test series I did just before this. Still, I think it’s a fascinating concept, and I am looking forward to figuring out how to write a story—not just as a collaboration with someone else—but someone who barely pays any attention to my own contribution. I have no control over what it says, but I am responsible for carrying the story to its completion, based on its parameters, and I’m excited to see how it all turns out. Last note, I will probably be copy-editing some of Botner’s text. I don’t like the way the program blocks paragraphs, and some of the punctuation is not really my style. I know, it’s not supposed to be my style, but I think there are some things that ought to be consistent. I will not interfere with its contribution any more than that, though.

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