An A.I. Wrote This Story on Life in the Time of Coronavirus. It’s Eerie.
GPT-210, as we call it, has some serious writing chops
OneZero, as you may have seen in our publication’s tagline, is all about the undercurrents of the future — the technological and scientific forces that are carrying us into tomorrow. Artificial intelligence, of course, is a major part of that future: It shapes how we communicate, how businesses operate, how Instagram markets sketchy discount palazzo pants in your feed…
So, we decided to see if an A.I. could fill in as a OneZero columnist.
At the suggestion of OneZero senior writer Dave Gershgorn, we’ve been testing weekly short fiction pieces scribed by GPT-2, a text-generating artificial intelligence algorithm originally built by OpenAI. We give the algorithm a sentence from a real OneZero article (you’ll see them below in bold), and the algorithm iteratively generates what it thinks the next word should be. GPT-2 learned which words often follow other words by analyzing a dataset of 8 million webpages. We’re calling this project GPT-210. (Get it?)
To help the A.I. generate longer stories, sometimes we’ll insert the last full sentence it wrote back into the GPT-2 program and stitch the two parts together, but each word is algorithmically generated. Occasionally, we also snip out junk words — because the program is trained on news websites, sometimes it’ll spit out “ADVERTISEMENT ADVERTISEMENT ADVERTISEMENT” in the middle of the text, for example. (Hey, every writer needs an editor.)
These have appeared exclusively on our home page, and we wanted to give new readers a chance to enjoy entries they missed. Here are the first six GPT-210 entries: We’re fascinated by what the A.I. was able to come up with, and we bet you will be, too.
(Note that in some cases, GPT-2 scraped some proper nouns from the public internet. One of the stories also describes a scene involving gun violence — we’ve placed it at the end of the series in case you’d rather not read it, although it’s not graphic. To reiterate, the stories are completely fictional)