Schizophrenia and Narrative in Artificial Agents – Phoebe Sengers

In “Schizophrenia and Narrative in Artificial Agents,” Phoebe Sengers  discusses how the fragmented, lifeless, and incomprehensible (or together the schizophrenic) behaviors of many AI agents is caused by approaching AI from the wrong direction or perspective. Rather than approaching AI programming as an attempt at “correctness” or logic, AI should instead be approached with the user’s reception of the AI in mind. Sengers’ argues this changes the perspective from “how” AI behave to the player’s perception of “why” the AI is behaving a certain way. In order to conceive of AI in this way, Senger’s argues AI must conceive of behaviors narratively (95).  Narrative, she claims, is the means by which users attempt to “understand intentional behavior.” When AI neglects narrative cohesion between AI behaviors, the user is unable to comprehend the behavioral breaks that, without narrative context, would not make sense together (102). Because the human mind “attempts to interpret behaviors in sequence and in relationship to each other,” such narrative consideration is more important than current methods which approach Ai behaviors as “designed in isolation and interleaved according to opportunity,” rather than to narrative cohesion (102). In other words, agent-design should based on anticipated context-dependent interpretation of the user rather than on the functions the agent must fulfill (103).


As I continue to establish criteria essential for consideration in the design of a stronger interactive narrative system, Sengers provides further support for the importance of more fully-realized AI. In terms of my research, Sengers adds support to the criteria I have started establishing for both drama management systems and character development. Of specific importance to my research is her suggestions that a more “sentient” AI relies upon a change in perspective (programming with the users view in mind rather than focusing simply on the AI itself) and the inclusion of narrative context. Such narrative context would, I conjecture, not only increase NPC character’s plausibility as an agent in a narrative, but would also increase the empathy of the user in terms of her interaction with NPCs.

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