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.