Dream to Learn is shutting down...

We are very sorry to say that Dream to Learn will be shutting down as of December 28th, 2019. If you have content that you wish to keep, you should make a copy of it before that date.


Random Thoughts: Non-linear Storytelling and Non-Deterministic Experiences

POSTED IN: Cognitive Wingman

Random Thoughts: Non-linear Storytelling and Non-Deterministic Experiences (Brain Dump Warning)


I watched Cloud Atlas a few nights ago, and have been chatting with my friend over the last few months about his experience with Prolog (first used in 1972); Prolog is a general purpose logic programming language associated with artificial intelligence and computational linguistics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prolog ;  I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about how to create Emotionally Intelligent bots / avatars that don't suck.  Good personalities, but also good experiences, which involves a level of capability on storytelling or experience.


Netflix also recently released Interactive Storytelling...


Backing up, let’s chat a bit on jargon, with examples:


Nonlinear narratives:

Nonlinear narratives have been used for some time in cinema – as Wikipedia puts it “where events are portrayed, for example, out of chronological order or in other ways where the narrative does not follow the direct causality pattern of the events featured, such as parallel distinctive plot lines, dream immersions or narrating another story inside the main plot-line. It is often used to mimic the structure and recall of human memory, but has been applied for other reasons as well”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonlinear_narrative


Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1961) and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) are two classics.  (The latter I recommend both the book and movie);  The Movies Cloud Atlas, Reservoir Dogs, and Memento are others.


Non-deterministic experiences:

Non-deterministic stories and experiences can have many outcomes, depending on the user and their choices. There are many in  wide use – for example, in Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) – which are a combination of role-playing video games and massively multiplayer online games in which a very large number of players interact with one another within a virtual world.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massively_multiplayer_online_role-playing_game

Old school, there are the Choose Your Own Adventure books – a “series of children's gamebooks where each story is written from a second-person point of view, with the reader assuming the role of the protagonist and making choices that determine the main character's actions and the plot's outcome.”



Up and to the right:

So what might a highly non-linear and highly complex, non-deterministic (personalized and flexible) user experience look like?  I dont think it's well defined yet, but a good place to start sharpening our mental model, is by filling in what we know from existing books, movies and video games...


For me, an even more interesting question is...

Who is going to build / architect all of this?  Lookahead?

What is the new generation of artists, technologists and/or weavers that will pull this all together?

It's a new creative process, and much like the Choose Your Own Adventure Authors needed to create threads, and Cloud Atlas producers needed complex devices to track and understand; 

  • Human understanding,
  • empathetic systems,
  • dynamic content generation driven by some form of rules
  • sanity checking the dynamic outcomes through the lens of human experience
  • retrospective updating of rules, algorithms and reality based on future/downstream choices
  • other content creation within a broader, more flexible rules set -

We may see new kinds of companies emerge - a blend of conversation bot companies like https://www.pullstring.com/ mixed with scriptwriting, psychologists leveraging computer gaming best practices...


New media vectors, new skills, new ways of thinking...

New tools are needed.   New skills are needed.   If highly personalized Augmented Reality exists in 2050 - I suspect a substantial portion of the content will be immersive. . "Up and to the Right"


Still chewing on some ideas here... will update as thinking evolves...




Bonus: Kurt Vonnegut Lecture on the Shape of Stories (39 minute mark)




Interested in more content by this author?

About the Author

Ryan Anderson

Ryan Anderson

Hi! I like to play with data, analytics and hack around with robots and gadgets in my garage. Lately I've been learning about machine learning.

About this blog

Cognitive Wingman - Never Walk Alone

Created: December 20, 2016


This Blog Appears in

Up Next