*Spoilers are coming…*
For years, people across the world have been absorbed in George R R Martin’s fantasy world of Westeros, originating in his ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ novels, and brought to life in HBO’s critically acclaimed Game of Thrones, which recently concluded its seventh season. Without a new novel since 2011 and with a warning from series producers that the next and final season may not air until 2019, fans are desperate to know the fate of the places and characters they have come to love.
One man has taken matters into his own hands, developing an Artificial Intelligence system called a recurrent cultural network, designed to produce the next instalment of Game of Thrones. Zach Thoutt fed the machine the existing five books, which total 5,376 pages, which the AI used to predict what will happen next, and write the first five chapters of the ‘next novel’. The machine has acknowledged and replicated Martin’s habit of starting each chapter with a character name, and been able to pick up and develop the language and structure of Martin’s style. In places, the predictions align with popular fan theories, but the made-up names and places did make it more difficult for the AI to understand, and it seems to have not registered that some characters have died.
English Literature and Languages applicants should consider what the key elements are that make literature ‘good’? Is it about more than using language, structure and literary features in a way that reads well? Can we ever recreate the human imagination and application of meaning to words and symbols through technology? Philosophy students can think about the ethics of using AI to attempt to recreate a person’s writing style, or voice, or art. To what extent should we replace human activity with machines? Students applying for Psychology, HSPS or Anthropology could investigate the way in which our society has developed to be less tolerant of waiting and suspense – what effect have sites such as Netflix had on our entertainment habits? Computer Science applicants can explore the functionality of forms of AI like that used by Thoutt, and other ways in which it might be applied.