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A Neural Network Attempted to Write the Next Game of Thrones Book

Impatient readers can quench their thirst with the awkward, yet fascinating, prose of a neural network trained on George R.R. Martin

Artificial intelligence is trying to write the sixth Game of Thrones book (Taylor Herring via Flickr CC)
smithsonian.com

Since 2011, fans of George R.R. Martin's epic book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, have been eagerly awaiting the next installment—all while the hit HBO series "Game of Thrones" continues on its own narrative path. But when that wait will end is still unclear. So to help fill the void, a software engineer trained an artificial intelligence bot to write its own version of the forthcoming novel.

Software engineer (and ASOIAF fan) Zack Thoutt was inspired to create the bot after taking a course on artificial intelligence, writes Sam Hill for Motherboard. He programmed the bot as a artificial neural network, a setup consisting of thousands of different data nodes that can work in tandem to process data.

Unlike a computer that has to be programmed, neural networks can modify their responses over time using databases fed into the system, similar to learning. To train his bot to write the next ASOIAF sequel, Martin fed the neural network all 5,376 pages of the previous five books to give it a sense of the characters, places and writing style, reports Hill. For each chapter the AI generated, Thoutt gave the bot a word count and a so-called "prime word" to kick off the section. Then he set it off to its own devices.

Thoutt has posted five short chapters online so far, and the results wouldn't win literary awards. Each one is largely readable, if awkward, and chock full of nonsensically dramatic quotes and descriptions. For example, this meandering detail takes place in the second chapter: "The dog wandered the stair, to allow the high officers to help you at home. the woods are gowned on bloody yellow and glass. It may be fewer as well as the north."

Eerily, however, several of the predictions made by the bot for the next book mirror popular fan theories about what will happen to favorite characters, such as whether one will end up riding a dragon or another may get poisoned by a close adviser. It also managed to create an entirely new character called Greenbeard.

Martin is known for his lush, descriptive prose (especially when it comes to food), giving the nerual network a whopping 32,000 unique words to ingest. And though oftentimes larger training sets are better for AI, the complexity of so many of these words complicated the training process, Hill reports. Neural networks generally work better with simple words, Thoutt notes, and fewer imaginary locations.

If these AI ASOIAF chapters didn't quite fill the void, never fear. The website Inverse has joined forces with a San Francisco company Unanimous A.I. ​to makes predictions about what will happen in the final season of the GOT TV series, writes John Bonazzo for the New York Observer. The team is collecting predictions ​to draw on the power of a "hive mind" and make guesses about what will happen next.

How accurate will all these predictions be? We'll all have to stay tuned to find out.

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