Why This Advertising Executive Is Using AI to Animate Moby Dick

Bringing the novel to life

As a writer and an executive, I look at this wave of artificial intelligence from multiple angles: as a threat, as a challenge and as an opportunity. And as much as the carelessness of the tech world gives me the most crippling chills, I remain mostly optimistic that humanity will find ways to make the impact of AI positive.

So, when we started an innovation lab to experiment with the possibilities of artificial intelligence, we put ourselves on the track to pursue this range of positive outcomes. We continually asked ourselves: how can AI create opportunities for creative minds, instead of alienating them? How do we add new dimensions to pre-existing ideas, while still preserving the soul? And more than anything, how can we develop a work method that is committed to progress while cautious about its unknown implications?

One of these experiments (Hypnovels) started as an attempt to turn my own sci-fi novel into an animated experience (by turning a chapter into a prompt). I immediately started to wonder if we shouldn't turn it into a tool for every author in the world. 

As we pushed the platform to imagine some of literature's greatest classics, I showed one to my son. He's neurodivergent—dyslexic with ADD—and despite his starving curiosity and incredible imagination, reading has always been a challenge for him. Bram Stoker's Dracula was the title I picked, and used an anime-inspired visual to get him curious. We copy/pasted the original first chapter, picked a few visual cues and left the rest to technology.

A few hours later, he and I sat together in front of our screen and watched in awe as the words turned into a stream of images in front of our eyes. "That's such a cool book, dad," my son said, "I think I want to read it."

That's when I knew we were onto something special.

Yet, our mantra of proceeding with caution remained key. Instead of rushing to turn this into a full format, we opted to make the techn available as a marketing tool for authors only. So we could assess the impact on the industry at the same time fine-tuned the process itself. 

Now that the technology is being tested by hundreds of writers across the world, one question remains: can this method someday become a new way for people to enjoy the written word? 

To explore that question, we again went to the classics. Moby Dick seemed like a worthy challenge. So, we got the team behind Hypnovels to render the entire book, post all the images as the system imagined them.

I don't know if the world will like what we've created, or if other kids who have difficulty reading like my son will be able to finish the story of this whale. Or if the publishing world, especially the artists in it, will see this as something we should slow down or accelerate. 

All we know is that since these changes are coming, it's better to embrace them with caution and curiosity, than trying to hide or deny their existence.

Bringing visuals to an old story of a whale won't change the future of the planet like the work being done by those developing large language models and other fundamental technologies for this new era. Hopefully though, it will serve as an inspiration for others who may look at what's ahead and may now wonder not only how they can make a fortune, but also how they can use this opportunity to improve the broken world inherited by our generation.

Even if it's a convoluted metaphor with multiple interpretations, Moby Dick seems like the perfect story to help us evaluate the giant creature in front of us and judge not only the beast itself, but our evolving relationship with it.

You can "read" Moby Dick here, and learn more about Hypnovels here.

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