It’s a warm and humid 4 am morning in London and I can’t sleep. What’s keeping me up isn’t only the incredibly annoying peak of sunlight piercing through a tiny crack between my curtains, it’s mostly my brain doing backflips alternating between excitement, anticipation, and fear for the last several hours. Okay let’s be honest, it’s backflipping mainly out of fear.
I’m Lawrence and co-founder of The Companion. Over the past year, I’ve had the unbelievable opportunity to watch our amazing writers and producers build up this platform and welcome hundreds of new members just like you into our little community. Another luxury of my job is to meet and work with amazing creatives like Brad Wright, the co-creator of the Stargate TV Series.
With all of the amazing articles and podcasts we’ve released already, this one feels different. We’re about to embark on the most ambitious project The Companion has ever undertaken with a brief given directly to us from Brad himself.
The previous day, our meeting kicked off as normal. We talked about the previous podcast featuring David Hewlett (now that guy is a ball of energy) and ran through the story beats of our next episode featuring The Expanse showrunner Naren Shankar.
Then we moved onto a new idea of hosting a Stargate cast reunion. In the previous podcasts Ben Browder and Amanda Tapping both seemed up for it, and then Brad hits us with a real zinger sparked by his love for AI.
(Side note: His Netflix show Travelers is all about artificial intelligence and how a supercomputer could help save the world. If you haven’t seen it already, you should. Even though it’s only three seasons, there’s a satisfying ending. There’s my obligatory plug for you Brad!)
I mean this new idea is absolutely brilliant and it’s the exact kind of thing I want to be working on:
- Yes, we can do a cast reunion with a table read.
- But what if we got an AI to write the script?
- It has to be a good script, not just any AI you can easily find online.
- In fact, this project is about innovation and testing the boundaries of artificial intelligence and screenwriting.
- Then we can invite some cast members to come back to read it.
I put on my giant smile. I nod my head in excitement and I dig deep into my well of positivity (that’s the Southern Californian in me) as the Zoom call ends. As I write down a few next steps I realize, “Holy moly, those are some big next steps.”
Without a doubt, I am excited about this. After all, I’m a computer science graduate who fell into the creative industries. I love this stuff, creativity at the intersection of technology and storytelling.
But I’m not going to lie, this project scares the bejesus outta me. It’s not only because it’s a beloved show like Stargate. It’s not only because it’s a briefing from Brad. The real reason is because of my experience with AI.
Let’s be clear, I’m not afraid of AI because I think we’ll be creating a version of Skynet that will eventually take over the world. My particular emotion runs way deeper than that, as if a time machine has taken me back to the Spring of 2002. I’m back at college sitting in the 3rd row of Frederick Reines Hall and it’s the first day of my Artificial Intelligence class. By the end of that first lecture, I knew I was clearly in way over my head.
The scariest thing about that introductory day was when our professor laid out the scoring criteria for the class. Doing the coursework was only good enough for a barely passing grade. Kicking ass on your exams basically netted you a “Hey nice job and thanks for showing up,” and I was already a pretty average student.
The majority of our grade would come down to this mega Chess tournament at the end of the course where your AI would compete against everyone else’s. HOLY FUCK.
(To offer some more perspective, some of my best friends from that class have gone on to become world-class engineers at Google developing Google Maps and at Boeing building satellites, and I had to compete with them.)
Ever since then, I’ve been a little afraid of AI. I kind of understand it, but now we have this amazingly ambitious brief to try and push the boundaries. It’s also our first opportunity in a decade for a little bit of new Stargate (sort of).
Despite (or maybe because of) my brain doing backflips at 4 am, I thought we should document this journey. Each week, I’d love to share with you what we just learned about artificial intelligence.
Next week, I’d like to help demystify what AI is and tell a different story to how Hollywood usually presents AI either as:
- A robot who only wants to be human or
- An AI that wants to kill us
(Because we know AI is really about learning how to master Chess right, just kidding).
And I want us to open the veil and share the roadblocks and breakthroughs this project will inevitably throw at us. Hopefully, our journey will connect with you if you’re interested in Stargate, AI, or at times, you just feel a little bit like an imposter just like me.
That’s why I’m starting to tell this story at the crack of dawn.
Look, I know what we’re trying to do isn’t real Stargate, but hopefully, it’ll be something different.
Something worthwhile to everyone.
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Lawrence Kao, is the Co-Founder of The Companion. He’s been working in the technology and media space since 2003.Follow The Companion on Twitter @TheCompanionApp