Storytelling for AI Development

Around five years ago, Amazon released its smart assistant named Amazon Alexa. She has gained a lot of popularity among voice assistants. Most users use her to play music and search the internet for information. But these are just fun tasks. Alexa can help you with more of the daily tasks and make your life easier.

Amazon Alexa tries to be your assistant, but someone who reacts to commands doesn’t show any interpersonal relationship. This type of connection is essential for an assistant job – it builds respect and lets us see assistants like ‘individuals.’ This is one goal that AI developers want to achieve: Artificial Intelligence that is human-like. In this blog post, I want to discuss one possibility of achieving this goal.

Building an Interpersonal Relationship with Storytelling

A while ago, I read “Story” by Robert McKee. This book inspired me to think about human-like AI development a little bit differently.

Robert McKee describes in his books that a story is a metaphor for life – stories awaken feelings. When we watch good movies, we try to adopt the personal perspective of the movie characters. This leads to an ever-stronger bond with the characters in the course of the story.

This is exactly something that we want to achieve for our users and the virtual assistants. The field of storytelling reminds us that there is no way to love or hate a person if you have not heard that person’s story; that’s why our virtual assistant needs to have a backstory. As shown in the movie example, it makes no difference whether the person is real or not.

Often, a connection with movie characters arises when they make decisions in stressful situations. The real genius of a person manifests itself in the choices they make under pressure. The higher the pressure, the more the decision reflects the innermost nature of the figure. Stressful situations often appear for virtual assistants, such as when users ask for unanswerable questions. In this situation, ordinary virtual assistants answer with standard answers like, “I don’t understand,” or “I can’t help you.” In this case, the real character of the virtual assistant is revealed. AI developers have to avoid such standard answers, and instead, the artificial intelligence should answer such problematic user-questions with a backstory. The backstory depends on the use case but should be created by somebody familiar with storytelling and dialog writing. For dialog writing, I can recommend another book from Robert McKee called “DIALOG.”

According to the dramatist Jean Anouilh, fiction gives life a form. Thus, stories support the development of artificial life, making virtual assistants more than just empty shells.

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