In this post, Writers Write looks at writing AI characters.
- Oxford Reference: ‘The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.’
What Is AI?
Artificial intelligence (AI) means a computer that thinks or does.
Real artificial intelligence is everywhere. Computers can play chess, or be part of shopping when you select items (and sites make recommendations).
Fiction seldom talks about the practical AI, because it wouldn’t be as exciting.
Fictional artificial intelligence can either be:
- Utopian [or idealistic]
- Dystopian [or disastrous]
In fiction, AI talks, performs actions, and develops emotion. That’s exciting, that’s worthy of plots. Fictional AI is closer to chatbots, like ChatGPT, built for conversation.
Smart fridges are still AI, but are harder to write about.
AI Needs A Creator
Artificial intelligence is made by someone, and for a reason.
Who made your character, and what for?
Frankenstein is named after his creator, who is quoted to say: ‘Many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me.’ Dr. Frankenstein created him (but was also planning to make more like him).
HAL9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey exists to power a ship, and was made by a computer scientist.
Computer characters need backstory, just like people.
Give AI A Location
Where are you going to put your AI character? It’s almost a stupid question, until you start thinking about it.
Chappie was a Tetravaal robot, but loaded with artificial intelligence. He is then stolen.
AI can operate from a computer, but doesn’t have to.
Does an AI need to care about its gender? It’s another question, but with the same answer for writers. Sometimes yes, and sometimes no.
AI Uses Rules
Artificial intelligence has rules: things they’re made to do, and made to avoid doing.
Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics have become part of real-life computer science.
The first rule, common in other stories, is that robots cannot harm a human through inaction (or allow them to be harmed). Rule two says robots must follow rules (unless it goes against the first rule).
Rule three is that robots must also protect themselves, without going against the first two rules.
Self-driving cars have to consider these laws, for example. Drivers have to be safe, even when there might be a glitch or accident.
For fiction, AI usually breaks these rules, and that’s part of your plot.
Make AI Aware
Artificial intelligence is built to do something, but the fun of AI in fiction is making it do something else. Awareness is important for stories, because this is where computers feel and think.
All AI stories have awareness.
There is a point where the AI becomes self-aware, and the consequences can be good (or bad). Humans have to, at some point, have emotion for your artificial intelligence.
Stories (as collected in Asimov’s I, Robot) work because AI becomes aware of itself. Nobody would read a story about a toaster (that just keeps making smart toast for 300 pages).
Let Characters Develop
Writing an AI character, means a computer that often talks (and thinks). The character has to be relatable, and humans have to feel for them.
Artificial intelligence, at least for fiction, has to be capable of two things: emotion and reasoning. Without it, your character lacks its depth (and your plot lacks its motivation).
Also consider development. Characters are never the same at all points in your story: they change, they evolve, and they learn.
The Last Word
In this post, we explored writing AI characters. We hope that it helps you to create stronger, more memorable characters!
By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.
If you enjoyed this, read other posts by Alex:
- Writing Courtroom Fiction
- 5 Bits Of Writing Advice From James Joyce
- 6. Bits Of Writing Advice From Judy Blume
- Can Artificial Intelligence Write?
- 5 Bits Of Writing Advice From Patricia Highsmith
- About Beat Poetry
- 6 Bits Of Writing Advice From Wilbur Smith
- 5 Writing Skills You Can Improve With Dungeons & Dragons
- Copyright & Song Lyric Use For Writers
- Urban Legends For Writers