One would think that since artificial intelligence has created works of art that have sold for thousands of dollars, neural networks should be able to recreate the cliché movies, jingles, and imagery that define the holidays with ease. But it turns out A.I. generated yuletide glee is actually pretty horrifying.
Despite a wealth of generic pablum to cull from, computer-generated Christmas movie plots deserves a spot on r/creepypasta. On Friday, MIT Technology Review fed the summaries of 360-holiday movies to the textgenrnn algorithm, prompting the A.I. to pen a series of strange synopses about Christmas terrorists and rural murder.
While computer scientists have developed countless machine learning techniques, a majority of them learn the arts by training on human-made creations first. This makes everything they generate a hodgepodge, a Frankenstein-ed riff on the hundreds, thousands, or millions of data points it ingested. That, coupled with their artificial origins, make them prime nightmare fuel, even when they’re trained using the happiest of holiday tunes.
A.I. Christmas Movie Plots That Terrify You
MIT Technology Review reporter Karen Hao points out that many of textgenrnn’s plot summaries turned out nonsensical and slightly disturbing because of the relatively low amount of data she fed the algorithm. Typically, for neural networks to spit out high-grade results they’ll need hundreds of thousands or millions of data points. More than 300 plot summaries might be a lot for humans to get through, but that’s chump change for A.I..
Hao also noted that she had the algorithm’s creativity, or “temperature” setting, on high. This means it’s more likely to choose rarely occurring words, like “ogre” for instance. This could have also contributed to the disjointed feel of the results.
Here are some of our favorite synopses textgenrnn generated:
A family of the Christmas terrorist and offering the first time to be a charlichhold for a new town to fight.
A gardener detective but country murderer magical suddenly Christmas the near elf.
A princess ogre nearby cross by on the Christmas.
Lonely courier village newspaper by home destroy Christmas Christmas Christmas the prancer.
Christmas Carols That Haunt Your Dreams
A.I. is crossing into fine-art, movie writing, and even music creation. IBM Watson Beat, Google Magenta’s NSynth, and Amper Music are a few examples of companies trying to get computer-generated music into the mainstream. Independent computer science researchers, like Hang Chu and his colleagues from the University of Toronto, created the video seen above in 2016 as an earlier attempt to get A.I. music off the ground. He tells Inverse scholars and companies have been going about this challenge the wrong way.
“A.I. music was becoming a raising topic, but most A.I. music researchers, typically computer scientists, were just treating music as a raw stream of digits,” Chu explains in an email. “We believe this is not optimal, because basic music theory, the underlying rules governing music composition, should not be simply ignored.”
Chu published a paper describing his version of a singing A.I. that details how he and his team trained the bot on 100 hours of random Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) files for a day. The results sounded like a nightmarish remix of a Christmas song sung by the Danish pop group Toy-Box.
More recently, Swedish company Made By AI took a similar approach and trained a machine learning algorithm on 100 MIDI files for three hours. The result could be the theme song to a Santa Claus slasher film.
Creepy Holiday Artwork to Put Away Until Halloween
A.I. generated word vomit and high-pitched melodies can be undoubtedly creepy, but to bear witness to the most truly disturbing computer creations, all you have to do is ask an algorithm make some visual art. Technology consultancy firm Cambridge Consultants developed a machine learning program it named “Vincent” to color-in sketches.
Vincent was taught color, texture change, and contrast using thousands of Renaissance period paintings. Cambridge Consultants employees then gave it holiday-themed, colorless drawings for it to fill in. Some of the results were straight up sinister.
Now that’s a nightmare before Christmas.