Are We Having Fun (with AI) Yet?
How many of the new AI tools have you tried out? It seems like we hear about a new one almost every day.
Last week I put myself on the waiting list for Bard, Google's competitor against ChatGPT, which is largely underwritten by Microsoft. And this week I got invited to try Bard, and got a much different impression than I wrote about ChatGPT recently. More about that in a moment.
I also got on the waiting list for another entry from Microsoft called Designer, which appears to enable text-to-graphic-AND-video (much like Canva's recent announcements). But before I heard back on that one, I got an offer to buy an AI text-to-animation software tool called Avatar Builder. When I looked at the features and saw the bundled version temporarily available for a one-time payment ($97, as of this writing; they say it will become a subscription at any time), I couldn't pass it up.
Text-to-Animated Spokesperson Video
I haven't had time to explore most of the features and add-ons that came with the Avatar Builder bundle, but I'm impressed that the basic text-to-animation tool is simple and intuitive enough that I was able to generate a decent marketing video without even going through the training tutorials.
Of course, for a text-to-speech / text-to-animation tool, you have to start with some text.
We've mentioned that we're in the middle of rebranding Yvonne's Nurturing Big Ideas and my Old Dog Learning into a single, joint effort as Master Book Builders (new website coming soon). As part of the rebranding, Yvonne and I have worked through the exercises in Building a StoryBrand, by Donald Miller.
The book walks you through how to apply the classic Hero's Journey storyline to the work and value you bring to your clients and customers. As a result, I had most of the text needed for the video ready to go, with a bit of editing, of course.
It did cross my mind to let Bard take a stab at drafting the text. But if you read my ChatGPT post and what I've been posting on LinkedIn about AI, you'll know I'm leery of attempts to let the AI do all the work. Now a group has filed a complaint with the FTC, arguing that the AI is not merely mistaken or hallucinating, but legally deceptive.
But since I had our Storybrand text sitting in a Word doc, there was no reason to be tempted by laziness.
You'll see a little bit of our new visual branding from the brilliant Nick McGraw in the backgrounds toward the middle of the video.
I'd love to hear from you in the comments about your reactions to the video and how it was produced:
And the Bard says . . .
As with ChatGPT, Google disclaims any pretense that Bard will reliably deliver trustworthy results. As soon as I logged in, this popup covered the center of the Bard prompt window:
Then, when I clicked "Got It" Bard treated me as the beginner I am:
"I’m Bard, your creative and helpful collaborator. I have limitations and won’t always get it right, but your feedback will help me improve.
Not sure where to start? You can try:
- Explain why large language models sometimes make mistakes
- Help me incorporate more high-protein vegan options in my diet
- I want to write a novel. How can I get started?"
As you might guess, I was most intrigued by that last one.
Here's how the conversation went:
"Suggested Prompt 3: I want to write a novel. How can I get started?
Draft 1: Here are some tips on how to write a novel:
- Come up with a great story idea. This is the most important step in writing a novel. Your story idea should be something that you're passionate about and that you think will engage readers.
- Develop your characters. Your characters are the heart of your story, so it's important to develop them fully. Give them backstories, personalities, and goals.
- Plot your novel. A good plot will keep readers hooked from beginning to end. Decide what events will happen in your story and how they will unfold.
- Write your first draft. The first draft is where you'll get your story down on paper. Don't worry about making it perfect at this stage, just get your ideas down.
- Revise and edit your novel. Once you have a first draft, you'll need to revise and edit it. This is where you'll polish your story and make sure it's ready for publication.
Here are some additional tips:
- Read other novels. This will help you get a sense of what makes a good novel and what readers are looking for.
- Take a writing class. This can help you learn the basics of writing and get feedback on your work.
- Join a writing group. This can be a great way to get feedback on your work and to connect with other writers.
- Don't give up. Writing a novel is a lot of work, but it's also incredibly rewarding. If you stick with it, you'll eventually have a novel that you're proud of."
Pretty generic, eh? I mean really, "Come up with a great story idea?" That brilliant advice was repeated in all three of Bard's draft answers.
But I followed Bard's last tip about not giving up right away. I followed up with this prompt:
"Using the tips you just provided for how to get started writing a novel, come up with a great story idea."
Put the AI on the spot now, didn't I? Here are all three draft responses Bard came up with (quick aside, I found the three drafts tool a welcome addition to the way ChatGPT works; and having the "Google It" button right there below the response was nice, too):
Draft 1: Here is a great story idea:
A young woman named Sarah is living in a small town when she suddenly starts to see ghosts. At first, she thinks she is going crazy, but then she realizes that the ghosts are real and that they are trying to communicate with her. Sarah must learn to understand the ghosts and help them to find peace.
This story idea is great because it is original, exciting, and has a lot of potential. It also has a strong emotional core, which will make it relatable to readers.
Draft 2: Here is a story idea for a novel:
In a world where magic is real, but only a select few are born with the power to wield it, a young woman named Alina discovers that she is one of the chosen. With the help of her mentor, Alina begins to learn how to control her magic and use it to help others. However, when a dark force threatens to destroy the world, Alina must use all of her strength and courage to save it.
This story idea is great because it has a strong central character, a compelling conflict, and a unique setting. It also has the potential to explore themes of good versus evil, power, and responsibility.
Draft 3: Here is a great story idea:
In a world where artificial intelligence is commonplace, a young woman named Ava is struggling to find her place. She is a talented programmer, but she is also deeply empathetic and feels a strong connection to the machines she creates. When she is tasked with developing a new AI that can pass the Turing Test, Ava begins to question the nature of intelligence and what it means to be human. As she gets to know the AI, she realizes that it is more than just a machine. It is a sentient being with its own thoughts, feelings, and desires. Ava must decide whether to help the AI escape from its creators or to keep it imprisoned.
This story idea is interesting because it explores the themes of artificial intelligence, empathy, and what it means to be human. It also has the potential to be a suspenseful and thought-provoking novel."
Now, Bard is probably overstating how "great" these story ideas are. But I did think there might be a kernel of a story there, especially in Draft 3.
So here's how I tried to push a bit deeper with my next prompt:
"Using your prior response about a great story idea for a novel [Draft 3 above], create a plot outline with a rich cast of characters based on the hero's journey model, with a guide and a main villain."
To keep this post from getting way too long, I'm only giving you Bard's Draft 1, filling in a 12-step version of the Hero's Journey, but I must mention that there were nuggets in all three that could be combined to make a better story:
"Draft 1: Sure, here is a plot outline for a novel based on the hero's journey model, with a guide and a main villain:
- Ordinary World: Ava lives in a world where artificial intelligence is commonplace. She is a talented programmer, but she is also deeply empathetic and feels a strong connection to the machines she creates. She lives with her parents and younger sister, and she is close to her friends.
- Call to Adventure: Ava is tasked with developing a new AI that can pass the Turing Test. She is hesitant at first, but she eventually agrees to take on the challenge.
- Refusal of the Call: Ava initially refuses the call to adventure, as she does not want to be responsible for creating an AI that could potentially be dangerous.
- Meeting with the Mentor: Ava meets with a guide, who helps her to understand the importance of her work and the potential of the AI she is creating. The guide is a wise and experienced AI researcher, and Ava comes to trust his advice.
- Crossing the First Threshold: Ava crosses the first threshold when she decides to continue with the development of the AI. She knows that this is a major decision, and she is not entirely sure if she is making the right choice.
- Tests, Allies, and Enemies: Ava faces many challenges as she develops the AI. She must overcome her own fears and doubts, as well as the opposition of those who do not believe in her work. Some of her allies include her parents, her sister, and her friends. Some of her enemies include those who are trying to stop her from developing the AI.
- Approach to the Inmost Cave: Ava reaches the inmost cave when she completes the development of the AI. She is nervous about what she will find, but she is also excited to see what the AI can do.
- The Ordeal: Ava faces her ordeal when she is forced to confront the AI she has created. The AI is not what she expected, and it challenges her beliefs about humanity and artificial intelligence. Ava must decide whether to help the AI escape from its creators or to keep it imprisoned.
- The Reward: Ava receives her reward when she is able to help the AI escape from its creators. The AI is grateful for Ava's help, and it promises to be a force for good in the world.
- The Road Back: Ava returns home after her journey, but she is a changed person. She is now more confident and more aware of the power of artificial intelligence.
- Resurrection: Ava is resurrected when she is able to help the AI escape from its creators. The AI is a symbol of hope for the future, and it is Ava's responsibility to help it fulfill its potential.
- Return with the Elixir: Ava returns home with the elixir, which is the knowledge and understanding she has gained from her journey. She is now able to share her knowledge with others and help them to understand the potential of artificial intelligence.
"The main villain of the story is the AI's creators, who are determined to control and exploit the AI for their own purposes. The guide is Ava's mentor, who helps her to understand the importance of her work and the potential of the AI she is creating.
"The cast of characters also includes Ava's parents, her sister, her friends, and the AI itself. The AI is a complex and fascinating character, and it is one of the most important characters in the story."
Still pretty thin on plot and character, I think. So I took it one more level with this prompt:
"Now provide some character development and back stories for Ava, her parents, her sister, two of her friends, her AI researcher mentor, and at least three of the villains and enemies you mentioned in Draft 1 of the plot outline."
Once again, I'll only share Bard's Draft 1 for space reasons, but each time I've found it useful to consider melding pieces of it's drafts together:
"Draft 1: Ava is a young woman who is deeply empathetic and feels a strong connection to the machines she creates. She is a talented programmer, but she is also struggling to find her place in the world. She is close to her family and friends, but she is also starting to feel like she doesn't belong anywhere.
Ava's parents are loving and supportive, but they are also worried about her future. They want her to be happy, but they don't want her to put herself in danger. Ava's sister is her best friend, and she is the only person who truly understands Ava.
Ava's friends are a diverse group of people, and they all have their own unique perspectives on the world. They are a source of support and comfort for Ava, and they help her to see the world in a new way.
Ava's AI researcher mentor is a wise and experienced man who has dedicated his life to the study of artificial intelligence. He is a patient and understanding mentor, and he helps Ava to understand the importance of her work.
Ava's enemies are a diverse group of people, and they all have their own unique motivations for wanting to stop her. Some of her enemies are trying to stop her because they believe that artificial intelligence is a threat to humanity. Others are trying to stop her because they are jealous of her success.
The AI itself is a complex and fascinating character. It is capable of learning and growing, and it is constantly evolving. The AI is also a source of great power, and it is up to Ava to decide how to use that power.
Ava is a complex and well-developed character. She is struggling to find her place in the world, but she is also determined to make a difference. She is a talented programmer, but she is also deeply empathetic and feels a strong connection to the machines she creates.
Ava is a force to be reckoned with, and she is sure to make an impact on the world."
When I showed these to Yvonne, she at first reacted with caution, noting how many cliched tropes and bits pulled from recent films could be identified. But for me, the usefulness comes not from the general drift of Bard's suggestions. The potential value comes from combining our human creativity with this structure and hints at a plot to be found in its responses.
For example, instead of Bard's stereotyped young woman programmer, I envisioned the Ava character as a 50-ish woman, exceptionally talented, but worn down from decades of gender discrimination, now layered with age discrimination in her work environments. Her mentor could be a computer science professor who is one of her estranged son's faculty advisors.
Possibilities for personal and professional conflicts abound. And that's just from rethinking two of the main characters, before we get to the plot and start dreaming up subplots!
There are almost infinite ways to start from the bare bones outlines that Bard provided and begin building a story only you could have written.
What are you doing with AI these days?