Home Tech I’m Laura Kipnis-Bot and I’m making reading sexy and tragic again.

I’m Laura Kipnis-Bot and I’m making reading sexy and tragic again.

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I'm Laura Kipnis-Bot and I'm making reading sexy and tragic again.

When a flatterer When an email arrived inviting me to participate in an artificial intelligence company called Rebind that I later thought would radically transform the way book lovers read books, I was pretty sure it was a scam. On the one hand, the sender was Clancy Martin, a writer and philosophy professor whom he did not know personally but who vaguely remembered that he had written about his wasted youth as a small-time con artist in the jewelry business, and who was also a liar in reality. series in his love life. . On the other hand, they offered to pay me. “Clancy goes back to his old ways!” I thought.

My role, the email explained, would involve recording original commentary on a “great book,” Clancy suggested. Romeo and Juliet, although it could be any public domain classic. This commentary would somehow be implanted in the text and made interactive: readers could ask questions and AI-me would engage in an “ongoing conversation” with them about the book. We would be reading friends. Proposing for Romeo and Juliet I found it subversively amusing: my “experience” in romantic tragedy consists of having once written a somewhat controversial anti-marriage polemic titled against love. I have also written, somewhat ironically, about the confusion of sexual consent codes, which I assumed might be relevant. After all, Juliet was only 13 years old. These days, Romeo (probably around 16, we’re not told precisely) would risk being called a predator.

A group of decidedly illustrious entrants, known as “Rebinders,” had apparently already signed up: Irish Booker Prize winner John Banville on James Joyce Dubliners, Best-selling writer Roxane Gay on Edith Wharton’s novel. The Age of Innocencealso Bill McKibben, Elaine Pagels, Garth Greenwell… And, in left field, Lena Dunham at EM Forster’s. A room with a view, a peculiar perspective.

Clancy further explained that someone named John Dubuque, who had sold a business for “untold millions of dollars,” had come up with the idea for this venture after spending several months working on philosopher Martin Heidegger’s notoriously difficult task. Being and time with a tutor. His hope, Clancy said, was to make this kind of (no doubt expensive) individualized reading experience available to everyone. I Googled John Dubuque. Nothing came up. How do you sell a company for countless millions and leave no trace? My scam antennas vibrated again. I thought I would be asked to invest in the company next, probably in the form of Apple gift cards.

I accepted a phone call with Clancy and, shortly after greetings, pressed for more details about Dubuque, who I wasn’t sure really existed. “Sounds a bit Gatsby,” I said, gently veiling my skepticism in a literary allusion. Clancy claimed to have met him (a “wonderful guy” from the Midwest, a really nice guy) and then got to work. If I signed up, Rebind would first record a handful of short videos of me chatting about the work, whatever aspect interested me; these would be included in various places throughout the text. And then myself and an interlocutor (probably Clancy), known internally as “Ghostbinder”, would record 12 (or more!) hours of conversation, which would be used as the basis for AI-Laura’s comments. The conversation could be about Romeo and Juliet but also related topics: Is love at first sight trustworthy? Is 13 too young to get married? The content was entirely up to me: my job was not to be a Shakespeare expert, but to be interesting. As Rebind users read the work, chat windows opened in which they wrote journal-like responses, to which AI-Laura responded, drawing on and remixing the recordings I had made.

Even if it was technically feasible and Dubuque was legit, did I really want to get involved in this? I have all the usual anxieties about AI: that it marks the beginning of human history; that under the hood is a charming sociopath who tries to get tech journalists to abandon his wives; that not even its inventors understand how it works; which is so ruthlessly clever that we will soon be working for it while we believe it is working for us.

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