A review of “Sunspring” an AI produced short film.

Today I am going to review the progress of AI, from deceptions in cinema to real world milestones and see how they compare. This should not be taken as authoritative or even comprehensive since it will only be using 2 examples, so therefore, to claim otherwise would just be bad science.

The fist example will be the recent Sci-F Short Film “Sunspring” which premiered during the DUST A.I. Week.

The first thing to note is the process for the writing of this screen play was to feed a bunch of scifi into a text processing neural network and have it write a screen play. Though, due to the production process it is hard to say how long ago that process occurred, but I think it’s safe to say that it was within the last year or two. Mostly because they used a LSTM RNN. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_short-term_memory

Which is very interesting when you think about it, mostly because the text prediction on the android keyboard suggestions, sometimes sound a bit like trump. In that they can be stilted and jump topics in unexpected ways. But who knows, after all it was science fiction screenplays. Then again, there did seem to be a surprising lack of science fiction vocabulary used in this screenplay, which also seemed a bit odd to me, but maybe that’s just because I read too much into science fiction and not really an indicator of anything.

To give the AI somewhere to start, it was given writing prompts to build the story on. The first being a piece of dialog “It may never be forgiven, but that is just too bad” which is a typical trope of ‘might makes right’ that is not uncommon in science fiction, an interesting choice.

The next prompt was to utilize a prop for an action, which was ‘A character pulls a book from a shelf, flips through it, and puts it back’. Which is represented in an interesting way.

The 3rd prompt was an optional science idea: ‘In a future with mass unemployment, young people are forced to sell blood.’ and ‘… gave it a cup of really hot tea …’ lots of room for mayhem there. I wonder how the AI will interpret it, smuggling is a fairly common theme for rebels in science fiction.

Then the screenplay itself it posted to the screen, which you can actually read if you are watching it in 1080p resolution:

the neural net also wrote a song to go with it:

which are also interesting, because because it talks about being ready to travel in the past tense.

Or into a tense past.

Then it starts playing out the screen play. The first thing to notice, though it would be impossible to tell from visual ques, is that they are in a room on a ship. As prompted, the first character pulls a book off of a shelf, the book itself is named “Sunspring” Character H pull a book from a shelf, flip through it while speaking, and then put it back.

So the second prompt was completed first, then the 3rd prompt is completed as the second action. More interestingly, C-H (character H, It does may me wonder If H was chosen to refer to something other than human, because its CH# which is also a class of chemical bonds which are common, and this story is about a love triangle, C−H bond is one of the strongest, it varies over 30% in magnitude for fairly stable organic compounds, or possibly it refers to a computer-human bond, black box AIs can be so ambiguous.)

The conversation he has with his partner (H2) seems to show his partner being dissapointed in him, because she feels she is no longer going to be “100 years old” which may be some sort of jab at longevity.

The next dialog seems to confirm that he saw “the boy” again. And then believes the way H2 ‘sent to him’ (H) was ‘a big honest idea’ but he is ‘not a bright light’ possibly calling himself less intelligent. So his lower intelligence prevents her from ‘being a hundred years old’ and H2 looks back at him and says nothing. Then C (interestingly not named H3, possibly C is short for computer? ) enters the scene. Among a bunch of wood rafters, which I assume if this short film had a budget, would have been painted grey to make it seem like the inside of a space ship. He is wearing a necklace that seems to be a series of pyramids, and as ascot. Wearing a business suit unlike the other 2 characters which are wearing shiny clothes.

C says “Well, I have to go to the skull, I don’t know” since they are on a ship, the skull might be a reference to the bridge or command center, or possibly the location that houses the computational elements of the ship’s AI. Then C picks up ‘a light screen’ which appears to be a tablet and a ‘security force of particles’ are transmitted to his face. Possibly a reference to facial recognition or iris scanner to unlock the tablet which looks like a legal sized paperback notebook crossed with a 8’ tablet. This prop is interesting, because it’s not like they didn’t have the simpler and common versions of those objects available, and instead they are highlighted in a sci-fi fashion. Just some really interesting choices for something having trouble producing sentences. Maybe it just really like metaphors and jokes insulting intelligence, which is a novel way to portray sarcasm.

After unlocking the tablet, C smiles and says ‘ I don’t know anything about any of this”. This is the point in the script where the AI decides to give a name to C which is ‘Hauk’ a mash up between hulk and hawk. A hulking hawk ? Interesting. The only thing those things have in common are references to warfare. What is more interesting that it’s name is hauk, so the C is not a reference to it’s name, which then begs the question what H and H2 are references to.

Then something fairly odd happens, H removes an eyeball from his mouth, though it is not one of his own eyeballs or any of the other characters. After that H casually discards it he asks “Then what ?” The eyeball here, could be a reference to the ‘I’ , meaning it was a metaphor for H getting rid of his ego. And he does it via actions instead of words.

H2 then replies “There’s no answer” with a somewhat disappointed look.

Then C frowns and says ‘We are going to see the money.’

H2 looks at C and laughs.

Then H takes the tablet out of C’s hand, reads it and it displays ‘all right you can’t tell me that’ which seems like it could have been from a conversation over a messenger app.

To which C replies ‘yea I was coming to that thing’ and then looks at H2 and says ‘ you know because you are so, pretty’ and H2 laughs again.

Then H begins to act pensively and says “I don’t know, I don’t know what you are talking about”

To which C replies with a knowing head nod “That’s right”

Then H approaches H2 and asks “so, uh, what are you doing”? To which H2 replies “I don’t want to be honest with you” a novel approach certainly, being honest about dishonesty, is that a paradox?

To which H replies “you don’t have to be a doctor” to which H2 replies “I’m not sure” only because this is sci-fi would that reference possibly be a metaphor for his saying to her “you don’t have to be a time traveler”

Then she says somewhat defensively “I don’t know what you are talking about” then H replies “I want to see you too” to which H2 replies in an increasingly stern voice “What do you mean?”

To which he says “I am sure you wouldn’t want to even touch me” to which she replies again even more defensively “I don’t know what you are talking about” to which he replies while making a motion “The Principal, is completely constructed of the same time” to which H2 replies with a somewhat dismissive laugh “It’s all about you to be true” to which H replies almost pleading “you didn’t even see the movie with the rest of the base” to which H2 replies “I don’t know” and then H replies to her with “I don’t care”

Then H2 replies with a glare “I know, it’s a consequence, whatever you need to know, about the presence of this story” then puts her arm on C’s arm and says “I am a little bit of a boy on the floor”

Then H says while shaking his head and looking directly at H2 “I don’t know, I need you, to explain to me, what you say”

To which H2 replies in a loud whisper, “What do you mean?”

To which H displays visual confusion and frustration and says “because I don’t know what you are talking about”

To which H2 replies by moving closer to C, putting both her hands around his arm and saying “That, was all the time”

Then H says with body language of someone who just got dumped and says “Would have been a good time!” while shaking his head up and down. H then turns his back to them and says with frustration “I think I could have been my life” and then starts shaking with frustration and says “It may never be forgiven” then turns around to face C and H2 and says “But that is just too bad” and then raises and lowers his fists and says “I need to leave and I’m not free of the world”

at which point C interrupts and says “Yes, perhaps I should take it from here” then approaches H until they are face to face and, seeing H visibly disturbed says “I’m not going to do something”

To which H replies, “You can’t afford to take this anywhere. It’s not a dream. But I’ve got a good time to stay there” which would seem to imply that H has figured he is not in a simulation, though he spends a good amount of time in simulations.

C then replies “Well, I think you can still be back on the table” which seems to imply some kind of negotiation.

H then replies, “mmm. It’s a damn thing to scared to say.” then H starts hand gesturing a negotiation where his is intimidating C and says “Nothing is going to be a thing, but I’m the one, who got on this rock with a child, and then I left the other two”

Then a phone rings in the background and it seems to cut to a space traveling sequence and the song it wrote at the beginning plays.
During the sequence, It goes from the camera looking at H, to H looking at a past self, to H controlling the camera, the phone rings again and H answers it. He hears H2 say “I just wanted to tell you (a hint of sadness in her voice) I was much better than he did” possibly referring to C, at which point the perspective shifts and H is no longer controlling the camera, and H2 continues “I had to stop him, I couldn’t even tell “ and H sadly hangs up the phone and then approaches a gun which is taped to a wall. Takes it off the wall is puts the muzzle in his mouth as the sad parts of the song play in the background. Then the camera pans to the floor which seems to show a swirling black hole.

The camera zooms into it until it comes out at a scene of a man laying down on a concrete slab next to what appears to be a concrete staircase. On a roof. It pans and H is standing above a body, the screenplay says that H came up to protect him (the body is not named). it zooms out a little while panning and a door swings open behind H. H now has a tan, flesh colored backpack, he looks down at the body on the floor, shifts the backpack to his front and pulls out a what appears to be a blood transfusion bag, with some blood in it. Then the door behind him closes.

H then kneels down next to the body and weeps softly saying “noo”

Then the voice of H2 is heard as if explaining to someone and says “There is a situation between me and a light on the ship,” then the camera zooms to H2’s face as shes says “The guy was trying to stop me. He, was like a baby. And he was gone. Was worried about him.” Then it zooms out to H2 wearing different clothes and she says “And even if he would have done it all, he couldn’t come anymore” then she scoffs “I didn’t mean, to be a virgin. I mean, he was weak. I thought I would change my mind.” “He was crazy to take it out” then there is a pause and music changes and she says “It was a long time ago,” Then she wistfully smiles “he was a little late. I was going to be a moment” then the smile fades and the camera zooms to her face and H2 says “I just wanted to tell you, that I was much better than he did” “I had to stop him, I couldn’t even tell” “ I didn’t want to hurt him” then starts shaking her head and saying “I am sorry, I know I don’t like him. But I can go home, and be so bad” her voice begins to crack. “And I love him” she pauses and then says “So I can get him all the way over here, and find a square, and go to the game with him.”” and she doesn’t show up.” ”Then I’ll check it out. “ She glances down away from the camera and then says “But I’m going to see him when he gets to me.” she pauses and then says ”He looks at me, and he throws me out of his eyes.” A tear rolls down her cheek and she continues “Then he said he’d go to bed with me.

And that is how it ends. The ending monologue seems to capture a lot of the essence of the song. It does seem surprisingly congruent considering everything else. Another thing that is quite peculiar is her line ”He looks at me, and he throws me out of his eyes.” I rolled this over a couple of times. It could mean that he looks away any time he sees her. It could also mean that H2 only felt seen and acknowledged by H, or that H projects H2 on to the world.

At the same time, her monologue seems almost like a legal defense. It depends on how the emotions she displays are interpreted. Going back to the dialogue from much earlier in the story. When H and H2 argue for the first time, is it just me or does it seem like his is accusing her of the kind of relationship as Quade and Lori from the beginning of the movie “total recall” that she is a spy implanted to handle him. Along with a toxic masculine fantasy which implies that she “owes him” something, possibly a type of pleasure, because of “The principal” being a reference to H2 being the “reward” for H, at which point she claims to be going away with C. During that whole conversations most of her replies are variations on “I don’t know what you are talking about” which could be gas lighting, or it could be dishonesty because she states at the beginning of that conversation “ I don’t want to be honest with you”.

Certainly these conclusions are relying heavily on metaphor and environmental factors. But then again, I could be reading too much into it, constructing my own narrative around stilted and disjointed dialogue. Which I assume is somewhat what it must feel like when parsing text of people change subjects, sometimes multiple times, during a dialogue session. Though that is not as common for most science fiction. So take from it what you may, though more recent reports on the same type of text generating AI sound much more convincing than this screen play.




But if that makes you feel uneasy, the ride is bumpier than you expected. Cheer up! Here is a music video from valentines day to help the title is ‘365’ by Katy Perry. Isn’t it interesting all the things than can happen in the same week?:


For those reading this who are not interested in a sappy love story, It might be more fun to try and figure out why Character H was referred to as “One of the lights on the ship” and what that implies as to how he was treated. Also contemplate what the difference might be in the way an AI perceives itself with and without a significant other. In the following music video it seems that when the a light is combined with an AI, they are able to generate an AT field for defense.

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