This AI writes horror stories, and they’re surprisingly scary

Which is scarier: vampires, demon-possessed children, or the idea that artificial intelligence could one day rule the world?

A new project from the MIT Media Lab plays on all three, just in time for Halloween. Called “Shelley” after Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, it’s an AI bot that generates the beginnings of horror stories–and then invites human collaborators to keep each bone-chilling tale going. Shelley tweets out a new story every hour; when someone responds and if the story is popular enough, the bot replies with a new sentence that continues the tale. “I would wake up at 4 a.m. and see the girl lying in my bed, her head down, looking down at me. I knew I was being held by her,” begins one story. “My heart is beating so fast it is a bit shorter than my breathing. I think I’m being stalked,” starts another. From these prompts, human collaborators on Twitter imagined a sentient doll’s revenge plot and zombie turkeys. The author of each story is a mishmash of human and algorithm.

While conjuring scary stories is on the silly side of what AI can currently do, the project hints at one successful methodology for AI design–where AI and humans work together.

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