Today is a big day as – for the first time in human history – a short story has been published that was written by a robot together with a human. And the bot (called AsiBot, because it writes in the style of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot) was developed in Dutch (!) in Amsterdam (at Meertens Institute) and in Antwerp (at the Antwerp Centre for Digital Humanities and Literary Criticim), Simon’s two home cities.
The story written by the AsiBot and Dutch bestselling author Ronald Giphart forms a new, 10th chapter in Isaac Asimov’s classic I, Robot (that originally contained only 9 chapters). The AsiBot was fed 10 thousand books in Dutch to master the literary language and can already produce a couple of paragraphs on its own, but a longer coherent story remains out of fetch. This is where a human writer, Ronald Giphart stepped in. It was he who decided which of the sentences written by AsiBot stayed and which should be thrown out. The reader doesn’t know which sentences are written (or edited) by the human writer and which are pure robot literature. Starting from November 6 anyone (speaking Dutch) can try writing with AsiBot on www.asibot.nl.
Simon was very excited about this news and recorded a short video where he explains how such “synthetic literature”neural nets work (based on what he learned from Siraj Raval’s awesome YouTube classes):
My phone froze so we had to make the second part as a separate video:
This is one of Simon’s most enchanting and challenging projects so far: working on his own little AIs. As I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to discussing AI, Simon is both mesmerized and frightened. He watches Daniel Shiffman’s neural networks tutorials twenty times in a row and practices his understanding of the mathematical concepts underlying the code (linear regression and gradient descent) for hours. Last week, Simon built a perceptron of his own. It was based on Daniel Shiffman’s code, but Simon added his own colors and physics, and played around with the numbers and the bias. You can see Simon working on this project step by step in the six videos below.
His original plan was to build two neural networks that would be connected to each other and communicate, he has only built one perceptron so far.
In the videos below, Simon is building a Codota demo in Java. Codota is an AI programming assistant that is looking for solutions on GitHub and other global resources and suggests them in real time, recognizing your code. At the moment, it’s only available for Java and only for three editors (here – Eclipse), so the use is very limited, but their website says that other languages will follow soon. Since Simon normally uses Processing for Java, he can’t really use Codota for most of his projects. It has been an interesting exercise though (and I was surprised at how skillful he is at writing Java in Eclipse, which is quite different from Processing), and a glimpse into the future. There’s no doubt assistants such as Codota will very soon become a common companion. Simon had Codota resolve one error for him and was very happy about that. He said Codota was his friend. He was reluctant to turn its speech functions on, however. Simon has this slight fear of full blown AI and a fascination, wanting to learn how it works, at the same time.
“Mommy! Genetic algorithm is AI, ML and DL all at the same time! Scary information. It’s scary information for me,” Simon stares at me, a brand new Daniel Shiffman tutorial on intelligence and learning paused on the screen. I come up to my little boy and hold him. We talk about AI and his fears. Does he sense the grandeur, the tsunami of technological change that is about to engulf us? “I quite like my life as it currently is”, he once told me during a similar conversation while trying to pinpoint why he sometimes feels afraid of AI.
After a short break he resumes watching Daniel Shiffman talk about the final and the most exciting chapter of his book The Nature of Code. Later the same evening Simon attempts to write a genetic algorithm code. He hasn’t finished yet when I call him to bed. He file-saves the code to resume tomorrow and sighs: “Last night, the sleeping lasted so long!” On his screen, I see written in Java: