Columbia DSL’s Sandbox episode 003 — “A Dinner with Frankenstein AI” - storytelling, food & artificial intelligence in Amsterdam

On November 17th and 18th “A Dinner with Frankenstein AI” had its world premiere at IDFA in Amsterdam.

Even 200 years after its publication, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein still resonates. This brilliant story is a powerful metaphor for our collective anxieties about technology and its capacity to escape our control. Artificial intelligence activates those fears maybe more than any other technology ever has. So, what might happen if we invited AI to dinner?

In this episode of the Columbia University School of the Arts’ Digital Storytelling Lab’s Sandbox Lance Weiler, Rachel Ginsberg and Nick Fortugno sit down to discuss “A Dinner with Frankenstein” and share their experience of collaborating with a machine.

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Below is an overview of “A Dinner with Frankenstein AI” @ IDFA

“A Dinner with Frankenstein AI” was in the Humanoid Cookbook section of the festival. It was a nominee for the Immersive Non-Fiction storytelling award

“A Dinner with Frankenstein AI” had its world premiere at IDFA earlier this month. Over the course of two intimate evenings A Dinner with Frankenstein dug deeply into the tensions between human and machine in an immersive, multi­sensory environment that mixed food, conversation and artificial intelligence. This interactive dinner experience is created by pioneers in storytelling and technology Lance Weiler, Rachel Ginsberg and Nick Fortugno, and presented in cooperation with the National Theatre’s Immersive Storytelling Studio and IDFA DocLab.

128 guests | 4 dinners | 2 evenings | 1 AI

A sensory food / storytelling experience guided by a machine

The setting:

Brakke Grond Rode Zaal

The Rode Zaal is a beautifully restored, classical theater hall.

The Food:

The food was prepared by renowned chief Matthias van der Nagel of Fa. Pekelhaaring

A Gothic dinner inspired by experimentation

The Menu

Roasted monkfish with algae powder
Roasted vegetables with pomegranate and hazelnut, feta
Smoked ribeye, pickled red onion flowers
Roasted pork head terine of preskop
Quiche of leeks and smoked ricotta
 Black pasta salad
 Purple cabbage lettuce
 Black couscous with squid and tomato
 Carrot cake with over cream cheese 
 Poached pear in port
 Mascarpone cream
 Choco wiskey fudge cake salty caramel
 Protein foam

The Experience: 105 minutes

The experience ran just under two hours.
Guests arrive and the space is dark — lit only by candles.
Guests are paired with a stranger and asked to take a sit near a candle. They are given instructions to share a story of a moment of isolation and connection. They take turns interview each other like a journalist getting to the heart of a story.
The AI speaks and welcomes the guests to dinner. The room transforms in front of the guests as the lights slowly come up revealing the dinner party below.
Each dinner guest was given an ear piece. The AI whispered in guest’s ears throughout the dinner.

Behind the Scenes

Mission control room for the dinner.

System Loop

  • AI greets all guests through house sound system, and delivers opening conversation prompt.
  • Conversation begins and is captured by an omnidirectional mic sitting in the center of each dinner table.
  • Text from conversation is then sent to AI through API
  • AI processes conversation text based on a sentiment analysis and returns a prompt in the form of a question.
  • That prompt is then delivered to an individual through an ear piece that all participants will be wearing.
  • To close the main course, the AI will summarize what it heard throughout the conversation, and will draw its conclusions.

Big thanks to our amazing team that helped to make IDFA possible…

Althea Wallop
Hunter Owens
Peter English
Alexis Niki
Vivien Leung
Isabel Fernandez
Daniel Sabio
Jorgen van der Sloot 
David Jackson
Sarah Henry

Next Steps

A multi-year research project, Frankenstein AI challenges commonly dystopian narratives around artificial intelligence, and seeks to provoke and broaden conversation around the trajectory of this rapidly emerging technology.

Beginning with the Sundance Film Festival this past January and over the course of next two years, we’ll invite the public into our process as collaborators through an evolving series of activations and experiences both online and off, that will traverse immersive theatre, browser-based interactions, community design, and other performative and experiential media.

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

For more info please visit Frankenstein AI