Guests engage in a simulation of “The Most Human Human” test at “A Dinner with Frankenstein AI” in Mineral Point, Wisconsin

“A Dinner with Frankenstein AI” in Mineral Point, Wisconsin — population 2,481

Developed and produced in collaboration with the Columbia University School of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab, Frankenstein AI is a creative system– a network of projects around a central narrative — designed to provoke exploration around possible shared futures for artificial intelligence.

This past weekend marked the start of the “Dinner with Frankenstein AI” challenge. Dinner parties were hosted in Sydney, London, Toronto, New York, LA and beyond. Over the remainder of this year and into 2019, the challenge will continue. However, today we wanted to highlight the efforts of a team in Mineral Point, Wisconsin - population 2,481.

The Setting: a historic building in Mineral Point

The documentation of the dinner party that follows is from Keith Burrows, a material scientist and storyteller. Keith along with his team designed and hosted the following dinner party.

Dinner Party Team: Keith Burrows, Leslie Damaso, Jeff Hill, & Esther Hill

11 guests | 4 hosts | 3 tables | 4 hours

Wow, that was pretty amazing! The dinner party went better than we had hoped. A few key thoughts:

an invitation was crafted and sent to the guests

The Food — 1800's-ish meal alternating with modernist courses

dinner is prepared

We began to plan the actual food for our Dinner Party several weeks ago. The basic structure is that of a 1800's-ish meal alternating with modernist courses. This is meant to highlight contrasts: old/new, simple/complex, comforting/challenging.

Menu
1st course: Roasted squash and gem lettuce salad
2nd course: Spicy serrano vinegar pickled grapes, white tomato foam, garlic + kim chi + haw “caramels”, and limoncello
3rd course: Braised short ribs with chive mashed potatoes, charred green beans, and red wine reduction.
4th course: glow-in-the-dark gin & tonic panna cotta
5th course: honeycomb and chocolate, other assorted desserts

Guests are greeted by music composed by an AI

When people were arriving we had a pianist (one of the guests) playing a piece called Opus. 3 by AIVA an AI that composes emotional soundtrack music.

Here’s a sample of AIVA composed music

Onboarding — Guests connect prior to dinner

The Appreciative Inquiry exercise at the beginning of the evening was really helpful to get people in the right frame of mind. I thought it might be awkward, but it was not at all.

the appreciative inquiry starts

Dinner Begins

When I spoke with Lance last week, we were struggling a bit with formulating our prompts. He said (I’m paraphrasing) he thought we were leaning to much into the frame and hitting some narrative points too much. It was good advice and it helped us figure out what we were doing.

The human host sets the stage for the evening
The conversations were genuine, deep, and bond forming. People cried. Lots of people laughed. Feedback has been uniformly positive. Lots of questions about when the “next one” will be.

Prompt 1: A random fact tenuously connected to the evening’s theme was shared as a jumping off point (I am a proponent of the transformative power of trivia). Each table got a different fact, which were related to: AI created artwork selling at auction for 432k last week, Mary Shelley’s mother being a women’s right advocate, and The Year without a Summer.

Prompt 2: Who at your table had the happiest childhood? Why?

Prompt 3: How many people have you connected with in your life? How many more do you think you’ll have a chance to connect with?

Prompt 4: Starts with Explanation of the Loebner prize and ‘The Most Human Human’ award given out. Then, one person per table was appointed a judge and they interviewed the rest of the table to see who could best convince the judge of their humanity. The judge then gave out their “Most Human Human (at the table)’ award.

the dinner party is underway
Each table got a different fact, which were related to: AI created artwork selling at auction for 432k last week, Mary Shelley’s mother being a women’s right advocate, and The Year without a Summer.

After dinner we had a debrief where I answered questions people had about the project (as best I could) and we had an impromptu reading from Frankenstein.

I was really happy with how much everyone embraced the rules we laid out, e.g. no weather/no jobs/no current events. The conversations were genuine, deep, and bond forming. People cried. Lots of people laughed. Feedback has been uniformly positive. Lots of questions about when the “next one” will be.


Interested in hosting your own “Dinner with Frankenstein AI” — here are some materials to help you get started

Documentation

Pt I — Project Overview
Pt II — Global Challenge Design Brief
Pt III — Plug & Play Dinner Party Template
Pt IV — An Example of a Dinner Party Staged by a Challenge Participant (you’re currently reading it)

Additional Resources

A conversation with Keith about the design of his team’s dinner party

I had a chance to connect with Keith Burrows, a material scientist and storyteller, prior to his team running an amazing dinner party for 11 guests. We jumped on a call a few days before the dinner to discuss the team’s design/plans. You can listen to our conversation above.

Conversational Design — Romy Nehme

Words are as much a design material as any other, but we don’t typically think of designing conversations in that way. This talk will explore the shape of conversations and prompts as overtures to the profound experience of exploring each other — both in the analog and digital worlds.

A Dinner with Frankenstein AI — documenting the process

Nick Fortugno (interactive narrative designer/co-founder Playmatics) and Lance Weiler (storyteller/director Columbia DSL) sit down for a candid convo about Frankenstein AI. This marks the first in a series of discussions that will pull back the curtain on the next iteration of the project entitled, “A Dinner with Frankenstein AI.” Topics covered include conversational design, prototyping challenges and preparation for an upcoming world premiere at IDFA in Amsterdam.

Interested in exploring new forms and functions of storytelling?