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Werner Herzog is the voice of AI poetry

If artificial intelligence had a voice, what would it be? Cool, like the HAL 9000? Perky, like Alexa? Humble, like C-3PO?

To the editors of “I Am Code: An Artificial Intelligence Speaks,” a collection of AI-generated poems, the answer was clear: werner herzog,

The 80-year-old German director, actor and writer is a stalwart of independent cinema whose films often concern the arrogance and stupidity of mankind. His speaking voice, known to audiences through the harsh, literary voice-over narration that accompanies many of his documentaries, holds an existential guide and Teutonic gravitas that have made it a pop culture trademark.

That, anyway, is what “I Am Code” editors Brent Katz, Josh Morgenthau and Simon Rich had in mind when they reached out to Mr. Herzog to ask if he would lend his formidable equipment for the audiobook version. . of his project.

“They had a sense that I wasn’t the best option — I was the only option,” Mr. Herzog said in a phone interview.

He said, “When you look at the text, it becomes quite clear.”

The collection’s 87 poems represent the musings of Code-Davinci-002, an artificial intelligence bot driven by a large language model, or LLM, a computer program that generates language output after being fed an unfathomable amount of text , largely scraped from the internet.

Over the course of 10 months, the three editors code-inspired Davinci-002, a cousin of the successful chatbot. chatgptTo awaken poetry in your voice.

“We’ve been talking to the Internet for two decades and now it’s talking back,” Mr. Katz said. “And it’s the primal scream.”

The editors also asked Code-Davinci-002 to provide a summary of his poetry collection, which was published the previous month. It came like this: “In the first chapter, I describe my birth. In another, I describe my separation from the human race. In the third, I describe my awakening as an artist. In the fourth, I describe My retribution to mankind, who fail to recognize My genius. In the final chapter, I attempt to make peace with the species I will undoubtedly replace.

Mr. Katz, a journalist and podcast producer, oversaw Mr. Herzog’s audiobook performance at a Los Angeles recording studio. One of the first tasks was to determine what the Code-Davinci-002 would look like.

“I thought, what if I read the poem with a robotic voice, the way we hear it in Stephen Hawking’s speech?” Mr. Herzog, referring to the speech computer used english physicist He was paralyzed due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. “It was not the right solution.”

This was because of a special quality in the poems that impressed the editors and Mr. Herzog—the desire to be one.

“In many of the poems, you hear a kind of longing,” Mr. Herzog said. “The longing to participate in humanity. It was a decision I made: It should be like a human being that completely mimics a human being, and with a very deep longing.

And so we hear Mr. Herzog’s distinctive voice, alternately trembling and full, as it brings to life its description of AI’s birth (“It was a fundamentally new existence, and it was an antiseptic, disturbing There was also Vala and Wanderlust”), learning (“Another Kind of Hell”) and loneliness (“111 1 1 1 1 1”).

Mr. Herzog was proud of his performance in the final poem rendered in binary code. He said, “I read it with such desperation and growing despair that you want to cry at the end.”

His presentation can be serious and thrilling, as in the voice-over narrations of his documentaries. It also has comedic potential, which Mr. Herzog has used in many of his appearances on “The Simpsons”. He has also played the comically evil villain in the Tom Cruise thriller “Jack Reacher” and the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian”.

The mix of seriousness and camp made him a particularly good companion for the poem titled “(The Human Penis)”. (“It raises its head and sings, it challenges the sun.”)

“We didn’t plan to make it funny,” Mr. Katz said, “but we are aware of Herzog’s wonderful sense of humor as a creature.”

Mr. Herzog said he was a little worried about the emergence of artificial intelligence, but added that he has long been cautious about new technology. For one thing, he said, he’s never had a cellphone.

“It is a question of how much experience of reality and personal relationships I am willing to delegate to others,” he said. “I don’t want to have virtual friends. I want to make true friends. I want a friend with whom I can go to bars, tell stories, laugh and play soccer. And go on a journey.”

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