Category Archives: Story

stories and artificial intelligence

As a young soul I was always fascinated by stories, stories of Rama and Arjuna, stories of freedom fighters and stories of superheroes (guess we all have been fans of larger than life heroes). It was always fascinating to hear about the superpowers that these heroes possessed, how they were able to overcome the odds and how they had a personal story – a wonderful journeys of their own ups and downs. As a kid it was almost as if I wanted to live their lives, always felt connected to their emotions.

As I grew up, to my surprise, I had my own stories to narrate – about my own journey – about my life at school, college with friends and now at various workplaces. It is fascinating that as human beings we have the power to build and narrate incidents, draw conclusions, share experiences and in the process emotionally involve the listener in our own world.

Stories are a wonderful tool, but when the same tool is to be used in a professional setup – advertisements, campaign ideas or business presentations – it becomes a difficult skill to master. It sounds ironical but true. The fundamental reason (to me) lies in the fact that stories are supposed to have souls and as professionals our decisions are driven by logic and rationale. It becomes difficult to turn a logical, rationale conversation into a story system – I have been challenged (and continue to be).

To overcome the challenge is possible. You could learn from inspirational leaders like Steve Jobs who had mastered the art of Story telling in a professional context, all the greats from advertising have been telling beautiful stories about the brands they work with.  Here is a great example:

This campaign completely nails the point – I personally love it for the fact that this is very bollywoodish in its over the top communication.

The reason we struggle with storytelling is the same as that of mastering intelligence. In other words, we have built machines with artificial intelligence. We have been able to teach computers how to make reason based decisions, in fact, we have been doing that for decades. However, we are not able to teach a computer non-rationale thinking? the reaction/emotion that humans have to situations without real rules, reasons or thinking.

I believe the day we would be able to create a machine that can narrate stories, conceive new worlds, imagine conditions that influence Human experiences – we would truly master intelligence.

Computing has seen advancement, we are marching towards a more complex neural network of data based machine learning and intelligence – sample IBM Watson, Wolfram knowledge engine and so on, these systems are bringing immense power of decision making to machines. IBM Watson can respond to a question in the same way a human would i.e. it knows what it knows and it knows what it doesn’t know. However, none of these systems are close to or close enough to a point when these machine could create Stories!

While we are some time away from creating artificially intelligent story telling system – there are ways in which machines are (already) becoming important part of our stories.

Here is a great example:

I am sure as we learn to master the art of story telling ourselves, we will be able to create machines that are truly human. I am an optimist, am exploring that everyday in the work that I do, experiences that I create and experiments that I build.

cave walls to facebook walls, why share?

When you have focus problems and need continuous distractions as a means to focus back on your mainstream work – you end up answering a lot of questions for yourself. Let’s say that I am able to do that for myself.

I have always asked myself a question – why would anyone have the need to leave their footprints (not literally) on this world? I have been fascinated by sumerian tablets, to cave wall paintings to ancient writings (scribblings mostly) and now facebook walls (check-ins, broadcasted messages in form of status updates and so on). As a society why do we do so ? share moments?  why have we tried to tell stories, leave hints (whichever way like it?)

Few weeks back i happened to watch “Lucy” the movie while i loved the imagination and the concept i didn’t fall in love with the movie (it was an average overall watch in my opinion).  I carried a couple of interesting imaginative scenes from the movie though and i kind of think about the possibility of bringing those solutions to life. here is one such concept (as shown in movie):

https://i1.wp.com/www.lucymovie.com/images/slideshow/05.jpg
lucy – movie

(what you see in this picture are connections between mobile devices and satellites – in other words visualised data streams – isn’t this beautiful?)

However, that movie helped me find the connection and answer the question for myself – that entire universe and all organic life came to be because it wanted to spread (big bang,  evolution of complex organisms from single cell organisms and so on), transfer the knowledge that it has (gene transfer mechanism) — that idea (if you come to terms with it) to me is such a fundamental truth to our existence (if we believe in it, that is). More i think about it, its a good hypothesis – most importantly helps me answers the question for me. It has also helped me answer other corollary questions like : why do we believe in stories ? why have we always told stories (to pass on the knowledge?)

You could argue that in computing field why would i care?, why would this bother me? The answer to that is that it is important to answer (may not be an accurate answer) simple questions to move on – human brain is complex (lets just leave it at that). However, there is a logical reasonable answer as well – today, you don’t look to solve the problem by boxing it as a “computing” or “economic” or “health related” problem. Think about it – you would ask, whats the problem ? how do we solve for it would be decided based on what it takes the problem to be solved (that most likely means a combination of multiple domains – multiple disciples coming together). So, knowing more about our social structures, human behaviours enables us to solve complex problems that we want to solve today.