I’m interested in what happens when artists who are used to being artists decide that the best place for a work is within a space that seems to require an entirely different method of construction. And of course, there’s no harsh line between forms, and plenty of people exist both as highly-proficient working artists and exceptionally skilled programmers. Tons of them, right? But I’m not talking so much about the skill or even background. Instead of I’m interested in mentality.
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With Twitter bots and a lot of AI in pop science, it’s kind of like staying up late with your parents. Once you ask to be treated like a human being, you have to abide by a different set of rules. You have to be extra good. And the second you misbehave, you get sent to bed. Because you didn’t play by the rules that you were agreeing to be judged by.
When Darius asked me to speak I had to think a little bit about what I would say to people who make software agents, which I think is really really cool. And to me, in thinking about it, I think what is a bot to me? A bot is fundamentally a piece of software that involves personality. And I’ve had a long-running interest in building physical robots that have personality of varying degrees. So I proposed to give a talk about that.
The commonly asked questions is, “Does this bot sound human?” And the question that I think is a little bit more interesting is why do so many bots that win the Loebner Prize sound pretty much exactly the same? They’re really similar to each other. Maybe they all have a particular type of default human being in mind, the people who design these bots. But if so, who is this particular mysterious default human being?
I wasn’t really sure what to talk about and so a while ago I wrote this bot called Bots r cool to try to figure out why we all like bots, and this presentation is the top 20 of those off of Favstar plopped into OutSlide because I really just didn’t want to do any work at all.
Why did this happen now? We’ve had update_with_media on Twitter via the API since August 2011, so you could upload pictures for a long time. We got a “rich photo experience” in September . […] But the short answer is I don’t know why we’ve had this capability for a year and nobody’s done anything with it until now in terms of transforming image bots.
The point being that this isn’t just some random thing about Rube Goldberg machines, it’s also about changes in art. It’s a broad pattern that happens whenever there’s a major technological shift, at least for the last hundred years. You get these useless machines that self-justify.
But most interesting was just going bonkers with this data in “gonzo mode” and incorporating as much as possible: Viral Plague Sci-Fi Movies Based on Children’s Books Set in Europe for Ages 8 to 10; or First Love Slice of Life Musicals Set in Europe From the 19820s For Hopeless Romantics; Bounty-Hunter Fantasy Movies Based on Books About Cats.
I guess the two questions that I ask myself when I’m making a bot are what resources and corpora should I use, and how can I manipulate this in interesting ways to come up with tweets that are more signal than noise. A lot of the time it’s actually really hard to generate language that is signal and not noise. And I aim to get a lot of signal in my bots.