AI Fictions


A road trip entirely written by an artificial intelligence embedded in a car, Ross Goodwin’s 1 the road has joined at the start of the 2019 literary season a whole series of texts whose common point was to stage and act out a dream of automation and artificialization of literary language, whose genealogy goes back at least to the first automatic writings of Oulipo: artificial intelligence is no longer just a fiction but a tool for producing fiction. Hito Steyerl revisits the narrative power of documentary film using deep learning algorithms to better question its ability to shape reality; Second Earth by Gregory Chatonsky takes us into a new world whose automatically generated images already tell the story, while by associating two images to a logical connector he shows the power of an algorithm to create a small story (If… then, 2009).

Diagram of the Transformer architecture
Transformer Architecture, on which GPT-3 is based.

Embodied in figures, familiar, AI now offers incarnations that cannot be resolved on the apocalyptic horizon of robots waiting for the hour of singularity to triumph over the human species. AI is no longer just the object of a fantasy but is gradually becoming an everyday tool through facial recognition or personal assistants, while the first tools of predictive writing and cultural recommendation are emerging and it is announced that a story produced by an artificial intelligence would have been a finalist for a literary prize in Japan. We already knew the very rich mythology of AI in cinema, from 2001’s Odyssey of Space to Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, via Terminator or Her: each time, the political, ethical and social stakes of AI open up avenues for deep critical reflection and question the most essential philosophical categories by which we think about mankind and our place in the world. But AI is now taking on a concrete presence. Databiographie by Charly Delwart proposes to retrace a destiny based on digital data and their visualisations; Lezéroetleun.txt by Josselin Bordat tries to stage an artificial intelligence in the process of awakening to the world, Kétamine by Zoé Sagan sets a scene of a « predictive » journalist centred on data: never have we been so close to artificial agents that are integrated into our lives.

Moving from fantasy to computer tools, the fictional representations of AI are thus added to the fictional representations of the emerging uses of narrative AI by opening up a field of opportunity and fear for culture: on the one hand, creation by AI or assisted by AI can offer a major experimental field of interest to both conceptual writers and storytelling practitioners. On the other hand, the way in which culture is « dated » and the way in which these dates are analyzed can profoundly affect the fiction industry and its attention control, further multiplying our perplexity about the emergence of artificial narrative intelligence.

Research directions

  • examples of fictions produced by AI: tools, projects, applications, games; – the computer methods used: GAN, machine learning, deep learning;
  • AI’s fiction: robots, cyborgs, computers;
  • the themes of post-humanism, singularity, utopias and dystopias of AI;
  • the cultural history of representations of AI and its inventors (Alan Turing for example);
  • criticism produced by AI: audience analysis, scenario analysis, cultural recommendation algorithms;
  • the analysis of fiction by AI methods in the field of Digital Humanities;
  • the legal problems induced by creation: law, data sharing, tax system;
  • the narrative aesthetics of AI, the link with conceptual art and performance literature;
  • the transformation of theoretical categories by AI and the modification of the vocabulary of criticism and aesthetic philosophy, from the notion of narration to that of literature;
  • the representation of psychological, ethical and political problems induced by AI, from Asimov’s three laws of robotics to Westworld;
  • the philosophical dimension of fictional reflection on AI: the problem of freedom, consciousness, agentivity, autonomy;
  • AI as a way of questioning the question of minorities, the topic of vulnerability, the frontiers of the human, the frontier of gender, the frontier of species.