Watch the bizarre attempt by an AI to write a sci-fi film

10 Jun 2016

AI is threatening to take over our jobs, from finance to healthcare, but if the latest short film written by an AI algorithm is anything to go by, screenwriters are safe for some time yet.

While estimates suggest number-crunching jobs and ones that require regular processing of data are the ones most in danger from AI, those in the creative industry have largely been considered safe.

However, taking one example, there was palpable fear among journalist when the start-up Automated Insights began selling its AI software to newspapers where it would generate news reports in seconds.

Typically, these would be reports on financial earnings from companies, or alerts following a natural disaster, but hardly of the same depth as reports that would appear in your typical newspaper.

So how would an AI fair when tasked with writing a screenplay for a short film?

That is what director Matt Sharp was tasked with when he was presented with an AI called Benjamin who, according to Ars Technica, collated dozens of the top sci-fi movies of the 1980s and 1990s and mashed them together in the hope of forming a coherent screenplay.

What resulted was the short film called Sunspring, which starred Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middlehitch playing a character simply called ‘H’, as well as Elizabeth Gray (H2) and Humphrey Kerr (C).

Limitations of Benjamin

As you can see from the film, the shiny jackets do little to hide the, frankly, nonsensical jibberish that’s coming from the actors, including some rather strange set directions such as H spitting out an eyeball mid-conversation.

Despite Benjamin’s ability to take huge quantities of text from these sci-fi screenplays, its biggest flaw was its inability to register names, hence the lacklustre names of H, H2 and C.

Regardless, it’s a pretty interesting idea for an artsy short film considering it was part of a competition for film creators to make a film from scratch in just 48 hours.

Not that much of the judging panel were pleased with the Benjamin experiment as one of the judges of the Sci-Fi London contest, Pat Cadigan, is quoted as saying: “I’ll give them top marks if they promise never to do this again.”

Typewriter image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic