Many years ago, when I was studying Artificial Intelligence at Birmingham University, I read about a project that the Beatles had proposed that was never completed. They wanted to make a film version of The Lord of the Rings, with Paul as Frodo, Ringo as Samwise, George as Gandalf and John as Gollum. What is more, they wanted Stanley Kubrick (John was a huge fan of 2001) to direct the movie.
Stanley Kubrick wasn’t interested, the Beatles split up, and the project never got off the ground.
At the time, I was wondering a lot about the question “Could a machine ever think?” Different philosophers put forward different answers to that question. Some dismissed the question as being as important as asking “Can submarines swim?” Others, notably proponents of the Turing Test, sought to answer the question by looking at the observable performance of the system. A milestone that I thought about was an AI system that could produce the film described above just from prompting. It seemed like science fiction fantasy at the time.
20 years later, and AI has come a very long way. In just a few minutes this morning, I was able to create some images using Hugging Face’s Stable Diffusion system purely from written prompts from my phone:
It’s not an epic in the style of Stanley Kubrick. Nor has it generated a Beatles-esque soundtrack. However, the power of these AI systems is astounding.
Bing couldn’t come up with images for John Lennon as Gollum, but it could write a poem:
He was a Beatle once, a star of rock and roll
He sang of love and peace, he had a gentle soul
But then he found the Ring, the precious in his hand
He left his wife and friends, he fled to Mordor’s land
He became a creature, a wretched and a thin
He hid in caves and tunnels, he shunned the light and sun
He spoke to himself only, he called the Ring his own
He lost his name and memory, he was Gollum now alone
But in his twisted mind, he still recalled a tune
A song of yesterday, when all his life was good
He hummed it to the Ring, he whispered words of love
He hoped to find a way, to be himself again