What Lies Ahead

What Lies Ahead is an interactive poetic experience that explores themes of artificial intelligence, language, human psychology, and artistic intent.

All that is necessary to experience What Lies Ahead is a computer with internet access. Start the dialog now at whatliesahead.io. (This piece is not hosted at all times — please get in touch if you would like to experience it)

Through a simple text-based interface, this piece creates a dialog between its participant and a text generating AI, a version of the GPT-2 language transformer model trained on the Gutenberg corpus, a collection of approximately 60000 pieces of English literature. Every response of the participant is mirrored by the AI, which tries to complete the text as if it was written by a single author. Responses gradually develop as they are being generated in real time by the AI; each atomic element which constitutes it cascades through all configurations considered by the algorithm, allowing the participant to catch a glimpse of the inner workings of its interlocutor. The asymmetry of this conversation makes it all the more interesting; collaborating with a writer that lacks intent fundamentally changes how the participant interprets the text and guides its evolution throughout the piece. Despite a lack of intent, meanings emerge — the human tendencies captured by the algorithm resurface, sometimes distorted, absurd, or familiar.

The creation of What Lies Ahead was made possible by the Convergence Initiative, an organisation which aims to create interdisciplinary collaboration between arts and science. This piece is the product of my work and that of Pauline Palma, a poet and neuroscientist dedicated to language research who wrote the introductory poem and helped shape the piece into a meaningful experience, linking it to themes of agency, expectation, and psychology of language.

The piece has notably been selected to be shown at Mozilla Festival 2021, and at AI Launch Lab's January 2021 Hackathon, where I was invited to speak about the implications and possibilities of AI within art. It was also selected to be shown at Concordia University's 2021 Design and Computation Arts End of Year Show, where it received the Experiential Design Award, highlighting excellence in interaction design within art.