Day 23: The StoryTeller
This entry was inspired by the The Global Hack, an online Hackathon organized by the Estonian startups.
StoryTeller is an online collaborative tool/AI that helps children express their creativity by creating a story through dialogue.
Loneliness has been a problem long before the current global crisis. The lockdown has only exacerbated it, resulting in fears of a looming mental health crisis.
Loneliness is not due to a lack of human connection, according to Carl Jung,“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”
Ever since humans invented language we have been telling stories. These stories have passed from generation to generation, resulting in similar narratives that have crystallized into patterns that we see across cultures. These patterns are discussed in depth in Joseph Campbell's 'Hero with a thousand faces'
We have similar characters in our stories, starting from a protagonist and antagonist locked in constant battle with each other. The hero's journey has predictable steps. Despite the development of our our evolution, we are still hard wired for these archetypes and patterns, hence why supernatural and fictional stories still have such a wide appeal.
The archetypes can be thought of like blocks in a Minecraft and the story telling patterns can be imagined as a the empty expanse, waiting to be filled in.
If you can write stories, then you can express yourself fully. Stories enable us to transcend the boundaries of the society and our peers. A boy can be a dragon or a dragon slayer. A little girl can be a princess or a warrior. The limits are endless.
The StoryTeller bot works by initiating a conversation with the person. The first step is to fill the story with archetypes. Here is a fictional dialogue that can take place between the child and the bot
Child: Tell me a story
Bot: What kind of story would you like to hear?
Child: I want to hear a story about trees
Bot: Would you like to be in the story as well? Would you like to have a super power?
Child: I want to fly
Bot: (Then parses through the entire catalogue of human literature)
Bot: There was once a child who dreamt of flying, but he was afraid of one thing, can you tell what that was?
Child: He was afraid of falling down
Bot: The child lived near the mountain with his parents. He always looked at the snow capped mountains, thinking what was beyond that, but his parents forbade him to ever go there. The child was also afraid of going high up on the mountain. It made his heart beat very fast. What makes your heart beat really fast?
Child: When my teacher asks me a question
Bot: One day the child was watching the mountain, when he saw a lamb right at the edge of the cliff, the child saw the lamb slip and struggle to gain its ground. His lips trembled. He wished he if could save the lamb as he rushed forward till he was below the trickle of dirt that was coming down. It stinged his eyes and he coughed. But he wanted to be there for the lamb, to catch it. The trickle of dirt started to turn into an avalanche, piling around him till he couldn't move. And then when he was helpless he wished if he could fly, and he closed his eyes and pushed the ground down hard, so hard he could feel his feet feel free...
The bot is based on GPT-2. The technology is currently licensed and operated by OpenAI.