“We know that AI terrifies us in the abstract sense. But can AI scare us in the immediate, visceral sense?”

MIT researchers trained AI to write horror stories based on 140,000 Reddit posts—Thu-Huong Ha, Quartz [see also]

The team behind Shelley is hoping to learn more about how machines can evoke emotional responses in humans. “The rapid progress in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has people worried about everything from mass unemployment to the annihilation of the human race at the hand of evil robots,” writes researcher Iyad Rahwan by email. “We know that AI terrifies us in the abstract sense. But can AI scare us in the immediate, visceral sense?”

Shelley, named after Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, is interactive. After the program tweets a few opening lines, it asks people on Twitter to continue the story, and if the story is popular, it responds to those responses.

Using information from 140,000 stories from Reddit’s r/nosleep, Shelley produces story beginnings that range in creepiness, and in quality. There’s some classic “scary stuff,” like a narrator who thinks she’s alone and then sees eyes in the dark, but also premises one can only imagine are Reddit-user-inspired, like family porn.

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