Monday, October 10, 2011

A Tale of Infinite Adventure

Distributed cognition is a decedent of the idea of extended mind which I've addressed earlier on this blog. It's one thing to expound an idea as a description of a phenomenon already in place. It's quite another to then take that idea and use it to create an altogether new example. That's what the Infinite Adventure Machine is.

Specifically, it is a dynamic fairy-tale creation algorithm based on a set of principles for generating fairy tales. These principles or rules were derived from Russian folk-tales by Vladimir Propp. Propp was able to refine these rules into a formula for generating fairy tales. This is very litterally formulaic and therefore wouldn't create particularly interesting or creative tales. But the infinite adventure machine changes this idea up by making it interactive. The 'machine' only creates a loose outline from the formula and the user can then insert the details and change the direction of the story.

While any creativity going on here may be somewhat limited it shows what might be possible by distributing and to some extent off-loading human cognitive tasks to a computer artificial intelligence. As Benque puts it,

"Authoring might become more about creating a system, a world in which your 'readers' are immersed and can explore according to the rules you set, as opposed to writing every single word.".

The model is actually built in part from popular video games where rudimentary AI is already being employed to make games appear more random and challenging. The Infinite Adventure Game is a promising first step towards making AI useful for learning and potentially creativity in the way we utilize distributed cognition. We may yet be able to get the art out of artificial intelligence.

(Incidentally, the image above is from a video game called, "Portal 2" where a rogue AI 'forces' the player through a series of tests. It's an in-game poster mocking an anxiety about robots in 1950's popular culture).


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