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What Lies Ahead

Simon Demeule & Pauline Palma

Interactive Poetic Experience

Each atomic element considered by the algorithm allows the participant to catch a glimpse of the inner workings of its interlocutor.

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What Lies Ahead is an interactive poetic experience that explores themes of artificial intelligence, language, human psychology, and artistic intent.

Through a simple text-based interface, this piece creates a dialog between its participant and a text generating AI, a version of the GPT-2 language transformer model trained on the Guthenberg corpus, a collection of approximately 60000 pieces of English literature. Every response of the participant is mirrored by the AI, which tries to complete the text as if it was written by a single author. Responses gradually develop as they are being generated in real time by the AI; each atomic element which constitutes it cascades through all configurations considered by the algorithm, allowing the participant to catch a glimpse of the inner workings of its interlocutor. The asymmetry of this conversation makes it all the more interesting; collaborating with a writer that lacks intent fundamentally changes how the participant interprets the text and guides its evolution throughout the piece. Despite a lack of intent, meanings emerge — the human tendencies captured by the algorithm resurface, sometimes distorted, absurd, or familiar.

This piece is the product of the work of Simon Demeule, the computer scientist and digital artist behind the code powering this piece, and that of Pauline Palma, a poet and neurolinguist dedicated to language research, who wrote the introductory poem and helped shape the piece into a meaningful experience, linking it to themes of agency, expectation, and psychology of language.

The piece has notably been showcased at AI Launch Lab's January 2021 Hackathon, where Simon was invited to speak on the implications and possibilities of AI and art.

- Simon Demeule & Pauline Palma

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