Fables: Computerworld

Authors beware: computers can write fables

UNSW researchers seek input from authors, game designers for computer program

Researchers at the University of New South Wales have developed a computer program with the artificial intelligence to write stories in the style of Aesop.

The program, developed by UNSW PhD graduate Margaret Sarlej, creates fables around specific combinations of emotions or desires felt by characters in the story. The (human) user of the program can choose from a selection of 22 emotions.

“A human author simply decides an interesting emotional path for the story, and the computer does the rest,” said Sarlej. “The computer decides the events to elicit those emotional responses from the characters, and the characters do whatever the plot needs them to do.”

The researchers have called for authors, computer game designers and other creators to contribute to the project.

“For us, this is a serious literary project, and we want to find artists who can help direct it to that end,” said Malcolm Ryan [Margaret’s Supervisor].

“How will this technology be used? It is impossible to predict. We hope artists will take it up and create things we’d never imagined.”

Below is an example of a fable created by the program, based on the moral of retribution:

Once upon a time there lived a unicorn, a knight and a fairy. The unicorn loved the knight.

One summer's morning the fairy stole the sword from the knight. As a result, the knight didn't have the sword anymore. The knight felt distress that he didn't have the sword anymore. The knight felt anger towards the fairy about stealing the sword because he didn't have the sword anymore. The unicorn and the knight started to hate the fairy.

The next day the unicorn kidnapped the fairy. As a result, the fairy was not free. The fairy felt distress that she was not free.

Reprinted with permission from Computerworld.