The hit webcomic Achewood is back and also has AI

The history of the 21st Century can be told in any number of ways; Chris Onstad captured most of it from the POV of a pantyhose cat named Ray Smuckles. Ray is the de facto main character of Achewood, award-winning webcomic Onstad started in 2001, updated daily for about a decade and then sporadically for another 5 years. From 2016 onwards, Achewood Mainly internet: chopped and remixed in memes and social media share boards, or consulted by those wishing to signal others that they are also fans of one of the most popular works on the web.

Currently, Achewood has returned to the internet in a wild upheaval, mostly the same, but also attracting the attention of disruptive technology. The series is back in its original form, an absurdist webcomic about Ray and his friends in and around 62 Achewood Courthouses, just now. on a new Patreon with other bonus content (all previous Achewood the strip can still be read for free at their old home). And also… an AI bot giving advice in the cold voice of “himself” Ray Smuckles.

“Its inventiveness is surreal and deeply engaging,” Onstad told Polygon, impressed with “RayBot”’s imitation of his work. “Coherence is like 90%. It very rarely loses its train of thought.”

And, as you can read in the list of previous queries on RayBot’s home pageRayBot do sounds as confused as Ray Smuckles. Most of the time.

The RayBot interface, with a question from user “numbnutz” (why does Gen Z hate sex so much?) and an answer from RayBot: “Dear Numnutz, As you said in the letter, 'Generation Z' ' [...] is pretty much against sex.  I guess they are too busy to spend all their time on [...] attend big concerts where people wear a different kind of bandana around their necks.  Oh, and they're all pescetarians.  Every child I see at least holds a small baguette with a large slice of fish cake inside.”

Image: Tradition Labs

The path leading from Achewood for AI is a tortuous phase, fueled by two less successful brand revivals. The first is a series of beautifully collected editions in its entirety Achewood in printing. The books were almost ready for sale, and then the COVID-19 pandemic started, leaving them standing still.

Then a Netflix show by Pendleton Ward of Adventure Time And Midnight Gospel reputation and based on fan favorites Achewood “The Great Outdoor Battle.” As Onstad reported, he and Ward had a demo that they felt great about getting ready to start, but their key pitch meeting fell on the same day Netflix announced its first big loss in volume. subscribers, took a heavy hit from the stock and began to drastically cut back on programs. . The meeting never happened.

this month Achewood the comeback is the result of Onstad picking himself up after those two disappointments; return Achewood as a private enterprise and a playground for experimentation. Hence, RayBot.

ONE Achewood AI experimentation – adopted and co-developed by its creators, nothing more – can be alarming in the long run Achewood fan. Webcomic, in addition to being a formative text to comedians and laymen alike, loved for Onstad’s distinctive ears for language and dialogue; his characters’ turns is just as interesting as the sequel. Crafts put in AchewoodHis language — a single passage, Onstad, says, took him 8-16 hours to write — is flanked by its crude images that make up a work that has largely survived to this day. now, except for the occasional 20-year-old joke that has grown old. least. In other words, it is filled with human idiosyncrasies that could lead to crisis in the creative industries, if AI can master their distribution.

Onstad is aware of the skepticism. His reaction is to think of LLM – Large language model, ChatGPT-style programs can generate coherent prose in response to user prompts — as a tool. RayBot is a unique use case compared to other viral AI experiments, like ask ChatGPT to write one 30 stones episode or let Serve as a personal stylist. These and many of the most sensational AI use cases are alternative tests, trying to see if the LLM can perform a person’s function convincingly enough that the person is not needed.

RayBot, as Onstad says, is more of a collaborative business. He’s heavily involved in the engineering team working on it (all Achewood fans, I was told) and formed an LLC, New Tradition Labs, with business partner Ben Porter to make it official. RayBot builds on Onstad’s work — Achewood yes, but there’s also a blog where he writes with the character Ray, which for years has been the talk of the dirtiest guy in town.

That RayBot sounds like his creativity delights him.

Onstad said: “You know, the first time I saw content that felt so familiar and strange, I was super excited, because it was impossible to imagine that being achieved before. “There is a lot of talk about authors worrying that AI will replace us, but in our team we see that, in the next few generations, AI will have the potential to be the home of the world. critiques of writers. tools or assistants, in the same way that we use word processors or Wikipedia or Google to help us write articles.”

According to Onstad, he hasn’t actually done this yet. all of Achewood his Patreon content — he says it’s worth a few months to be ready to go — was written a lot ahead of the RayBot test, and he was too deeply involved in bot development to really Incorporate it into your creative process. But he thinks it’s all good in the end.

“I don’t feel completely cheated when I say, like, ‘Hey, Chris’s entire work with perfect recall and statistical weights, give me a Chris-like idea,’” Onstad speak. “This technology really helps you realize that there are no barriers, there is no difference when the artist’s mind stops and the outside world begins. And so, for me, storing some of this information outside of myself is still a valid way to come up with new ideas.”

Once again, Onstad is speaking from a single place — many aspiring ChatGPT users won’t be using a trained version of their own previous work, nor will they have a large workload to deliver. grant it, focusing instead on the mass subconscious of the internet to retrieve something they hope will find useful. He admits that there are some writers who go over their quota, maybe sell out books on Kindle, or try to inflate their authority on a subject, can use LLM as they exist today to create for an artificial motivation. But real art? That’s not what he thinks these tools can do.

“It took me 8-16 hours to write a paragraph. Anything that RayBot says as an innovative idea will be reworked and redeveloped and upside down to the point where I can say, ‘Ray kept me off the blank page,'” said Onstad, “but no Any AI content has a chance to appear in any of my work in its final form. Because psychologically, I’m a writer, and I do what I do because I love it. That is my job. For me, it’s not interesting if a bot just gives the content and I put characters below it. It still takes my contribution so I feel like I’m providing anything of value.”

At another point he put it this way:

“I didn’t see the benefit of distinguishing between RayBot’s ability to help me generate an idea and a bottle of whiskey,” Onstad said. “Except this is much more sustainable and doesn’t cost any money.”

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