As the Writer's Strike continues into the end of January with no real end in sight, most people are running out of quality TV programs to watch. Heck, we're even running out of quality-less programs to watch. Unless you are a fan of reality shows such as Gladiator, there isn't much coming in the next month or so, if at all, for this rapidly evaporating season.
I think it is time we in the software industry step up to the plate and offer our help. With what we know about artificial intelligence (AI), genetic algorithms, and natural-language parsing, it should be possible to develop a software program where TV scripts are created based on previous episodes.
What we need are:
- Characters in the series and their attributes (gender, personality, etc.)
- Tons of previous scripts
- The series formula, e.g. The new clue to solve the case between minutes 39 and 40 in Law & Order, or CSI.
- A genetic algorithm that learns the characteristic of the series through all the existing episodes, e.g. how each character behaves, their favorite catchphrases, and how the general plot line evolves. For many shows, just the catchphrase would suffice.
- A software bot to trawl the net for bizarre news as seed to generate new stories.
The scripts generated by this AI program would probably not very good at first -- but hey, neither was Seinfeld -- they might not make sense at all. But, after some teaching sessions by a human -- perhaps volunteers from the audience? It's all about crowd-sourcing these days, right? -- some reasonable scripts should result.
Granted this strategy would not work for proper drama like 24, Dexter, Weeds, etc. which all have major story arcs running through entire seasons but, it should work great for formulaic shows such as Law & Order, CSI, Numbers, Psych, where almost everything stays the same from episode to episode with only minor plot device differences in between.
How much effort would it take to develop this AI program? I don't have the faintest idea. I just suggest stuff, it's up to other people to handle the sticky details of implementation. I can imagine modifying an existing AI algorithm to accept TV scripts instead of whatever scientific research data, let it run on some beefy servers (may be run it as adistributed project like SETI@home
? New TV shows are at least
as important as finding aliens, maybe moreso.), and see what comes out at the other end.
Remember, this idea is hardly new. It has already been done with financial news by Thomson Financial as reported by Wired
back in 2006. Is it such a big leap from news to formulaic drama?
Come on, doesn't this sound like a fantastic final year college project? Surely the prospect of getting your final assignment done and
being the hero who breaks the Writer's Strike deadlock sounds appealing to someone?
More interesting question is: Which one is smarter? Law & Order, or an artificial intelligence program? With Fred Thompson dropping out of the presidential race, our money is on the AI.