If it’s started to feel like all summer blockbuster movies are being written by robots [INSERT FORMER PRO WRESTLER, INSERT GIANT CGI ANIMAL], you’ll be disquieted to learn that that future may not be too far off.
The meditation app Calm teamed up with the tech team at Botnik to write a new Brothers Grimm-style fairy tale entirely through artificial intelligence. By inputting the data from existing Brothers Grimm stories and using predictive text technology (and with a few human writers stitching things together), the group at Botnik crafted “The Princess and the Fox,” a story about “a talking fox [who] helps the lowly miller’s son to rescue the beautiful princess from the fate of having to marry a dreadful prince who she does not love.”
“We’re doing for the Brothers Grimm what Jurassic Park did for dinosaurs,” says Michael Acton Smith, co-founder of Calm, in a press press release. “We’re bringing them back from the dead, with modern science.” (It perhaps bears remembering here that Jurassic Park famously did not end well.)
A more apt comparison might have been to Roald Dahl’s 1953 short story “The Great Automatic Grammatizator,” in which an inventor realizes that the rules of grammar are fixed, and largely mathematical, and by imputing certain information, he’s able to build a machine that can spit out an award-winning novel in any genre in 15 minutes. The story ends with the world’s writers being forced to license their names to those who control the machine. Although in that story, the authors signed contracts and received money for their names; the Brothers Grimm work is in the public domain. Long dead, they have no recourse against startups and apps that aim to boil down their stories to the tallow and massage what’s left into a sausage casing branded with their name.
A quote from the company’s press release: “‘We’re calling it The Lost Grimm Fairy Tale,’ says Alex Tew, cofounder of Calm, Apple’s 2017 App of the Year.” According to the company’s website, “The Princess and the Fox” is “the first new Brothers Grimm fairy tale in 200 years.”