Artificial’s Bernie Su Discusses Emmy Winning Series

Very cool. So, outside of the new remote format, what else has changed this season? I see that you guys are now doing these world building streams where you’re having the audience help you build characters and build the narrative. And that’s new for this season, right?

Bernie Su: Absolutely, absolutely. So, there are really three new things this season. Last season was super innovative, it won the Emmy. So, you mentioned the remote production, that’s very clear. Okay. The second thing is, as you mentioned the World Building episodes. So the difference this time is that – the interactivity [previously] was all in the world, you’re in the story, and you only interact. The only interactive elements are in the story. The characters ask questions, you’re asking the characters questions. You want to effect different polls you vote in the polls. So that’s still the same, it’s just slicker now.

The world building episodes gives the audience this immense power where they could dictate and also you know, challenge us, in this case with creating characters that we then put into the show. So we’ve done this twice now, so far. Once with the Kira character, which we built from scratch, scratch meaning we connect to another character, we kind of guided the audience with aspects of character. How we built them into the story and then everything else was designed almost in that one show, one episode, where they chose the name, they chose the personality quirks, they chose the catchphrase, they chose the flaws, so they had all that there.

It wasn’t blank, you know, open like anything goes. It was curated, right? Like I’m not going to name the character, you know, Apple or Boaty McBoatface or something, because it just doesn’t make sense for the world of the show. So there are some kind of guidelines I put in together. But like, I didn’t know the character was gonna be named Kira, for example and you’ve been the character is coming in. I had no idea that we’re going to make her exclusively drink strawberry milk. I’m like, “Alright, that’s a challenge.”


It’s like, like these weird quirks that they’ve cited, the audience came up in all the all spirit of the Twitch audience. That’s what Twitch audience does, right? And yes, you can say Twitch audiences. Can be negative, sometimes it happens, but the facade is to be very whimsical. I think when it’s whimsical, it does really, really cool things like that. So that’s the second thing.

The third thing is the music technology. So, what this technology does is it allows the audience to shift the musical score in real time through chat and emojis. The tech parses the chat through an algorithm and determines that the chat is feeling very intense, then the music will shift into intense tones. I think that technology is incredible, and amazing, and I love it. Like I really love it. It’s so fun to play with. And the music’s great too. So those are the three ways we’ve upped it a level.

Speaking about the music, that’s actually something I wanted to ask you about. I saw that on the Dante Basco stream, where you were building his character out. I watched that stream and it seems really, really cool. I guess I have two questions. Where is the music coming from and I think I saw that you guys built the technology directly for this program, it’s not a commercially available product, is that correct?

Bernie Su: Yeah, it is not currently available at this time. This version of the product is designed for this show. And it’s only available on our show. Like, I would have to like start a stream and turn it on for you to play with it. We are doing a rerun tonight so you can actually see it in action if you want to. And of course tomorrow’s episode. But yeah, it’s not commercially available. It’s proprietary in the sense that, you know, we’re the only ones to have it and it’s scalable, absolutely.

So, I’m not the inventor of it. I don’t want to speak completely like I know exactly how it’s built. But it is the music coming through the cloud. It is a cloud-based system where it’s piped into our stream, and I can control it, so I can control the levels of it. I can guide it and the music, it’s not just like you saw on the Dante one. There’s like four classes, happy, sad, mysterious, and intense. But it’s also a little more advanced than that. There you have the levels, but you also have different themes within characters.

So, in our show, we have currently five musical themes. And those five themes represent either the main show or for specific characters. A la, you know, any musical score will theme characters, right? Peter and the Wolf classic, so it’s kind of it’s the same ethos where I as a director and showrunner, will be like ‘okay, we’re going to go into this next scene. This scene is a scene between Elle and Asher, her boyfriend, so I’m going to play the Elle theme.’ There’s no other theme that makes sense here because it’s about her, so I’m gonna play her theme, the theme plays and then the audience can go to town manipulating it.

So, what you can kind of get from that…sure, you can get chaos, but also. . . It’s kind of different purifications of what the scene is.

So, the scene could be like designed or, you know, constructed as like this happy scene of them talking about their last speech as an example, but if the mysterious music comes in, then you have this kind of undertone of like, wait, what happened during our last date? Like, that has this music in there. So, it gives the audience the ability to kind of influence those things.

Yeah! It seems really cool. I haven’t watched any of the season three episodes yet (outside of the one with Dante). But I’m really, really curious to see how all that plays and how it works, because music is almost like one of the cornerstones of filmmaking in that music that can completely change how people view scenes and manipulate their emotions. So, it’s really interesting that you’ve got this set up where it’s all interactive and can really play with things a lot. It’s an exciting technology that I’m really looking forward to seeing.

I kind of want to go back a little bit now to the plot, going back to like the beginning of the show, how much did you know about A.I./Artificial Intelligence before deciding to go this route with the show?

Bernie Su: Um, really. I mean, compared to what I know now, absolutely very little. But I mean, granted, this is like, you know, three seasons in and obviously we did a lot…a ton of research about it while writing the show over two seasons. And then, I’ve also spoken about it, the [Articifical] show, and AI tech, you know, at conferences, working with Lifescore Tech, the music tech company founded by Tom Gruber, who founded Siri, so you know, he’s an AI luminary.

The information that they have just completely sold me, I mean it honestly dwarfs what I have, but I mean since I started the show, I consider myself very versed in what is generally possible, without being someone who’s actually in AI. You know, like I’m not pretending or saying that I am an expert in AI. I just have the knowledge of what is actually there and what is not there, and what is possible and what is not possible. I don’t have it all, but I have a good general sense of what’s there.


Josh Goldman

Josh Goldman

If you really want to know me, you should watch Ralph Bakshi's Wizards, Rankin-Bass's Flight of Dragons, Johnny Dangerously, and Spaceballs. Co-Founder of The Illuminerdi.