Feature Image via HBO
We live in an era of speed; if you’re too slow at your job you’ll probably be fired.
George R. R. Martin is no different. He’s been taking plenty of time in writing the latest instalment of A Song of Ice and Fire (the basis of HBO’s Game of Thrones), entitled The Winds of Winter. Therefore, a software engineer has taken it upon himself to write the book himself, using artificial intelligence (AI).
Martin published the fifth novel in the series, A Dance with Dragons, way back in 2011. What has he been doing since? Some fans have speculated that he’s simply being slow and thoughtful about his writing. Others have rudely questioned whether the 68-year-old actually plans to finish the series before he dies. He’s even been compared to Charles Dickens, who passed away mid-novel.
The good news is, an engineer and data scientist (and self-proclaimed “huge fan” of Game of Thrones), Zack Thoutt, has programmed the first five chapters of The Winds of Winter using AI. The technology he used is called a recurrent neutral network (RNN). It analysed the first five books to get a feel for Martin’s vocabulary and writing style. The network is then given a keyword by Thoutt, which is used as a prompt, and a quantity of words to generate. The result is a brand new chapter.
“I’m a huge fan of Game of Thrones, the books and the show . . . I had worked with RNNs a bit . . . and thought I’d give working with the books a shot”, said Thoutt
So far the AI network has created a new character, Greenbeard, and killed Daenerys (via poison) and predicted that Jaime Lannister will murder Cersei. It’s certainly inherited Martin’s thirst for blood!
AI’s First Generated Sentence:
“‘I feared Master Sansa, Ser,” Ser Jaime reminded her. “She Baratheon is one of the crossing. The second sons of your onion concubine.”‘
Does anyone know what an onion concubine is? Perhaps we’ll find out later in the AI novel.
Thoutt believes the program would work better using simpler language with more than one hundred times the sample of Martin’s novels. This would help the AI to possess a more fluent, rigorous vocabulary. He notes that Martin’s vocabulary, which is often flamboyantly descriptive, is difficult for the machine to process. The fictional names and places tend to be quite complicated, too.
The network is doing a passable job so far, but stumbles over some grammar. It also writes in characters who have long since been killed off. This shows that although it mimics Martin’s writing, it cannot process a complex plot. Thoutt says this is the primary pitfall of the network that means (at this stage) technology will not replace authors.
“The model is striving to be a new book and to take everything into account, but it makes a lot of mistakes because the technology to train a perfect text generator that can remember complex plots over millions of words doesn’t exist yet.”
The likelihood of Martin`s version of the novel matching the AI`s is extremely low, obviously. But it’s something; the anticipated wait for the next television season is 16 months (minimum). God knows how long until the next book (written by Martin) is actually released; perhaps this taste of the story will quench the thirst of some fans, temporarily? Particularly after the shocks in the recent season 7 finale. If HBO and Martin won’t tell us what happens next, a machine will. That’s the 21st century for you!
So when is somebody going to automate a new Harry Potter novel? I`m waiting.