Saturday, September 26, 2020

Acuitas Diary #30 (September 2020)

 My job this month was to improve the generality of the cause and effect database, and then build up the concept of “possessions” or “inventory.”

Well, month, really. Image via @NoContextTrek on Twitter.

The C-E database, when I first threw it together, would only accept two types of fact or sentence: actions (“I <verb>,” “I am <verb-ed>”) and states (“I am <adjective>”). Why? Well, when you're putting something together for the first time, getting it to work on a limited number of cases is sometimes easier than trying to plan for everything. Obviously there are a lot more facts out there … so this month, I made revisions to allow just about any type of link relationship that Acuitas recognizes to be used in C-E relationships. Since “X has-a Y” is one of those, this upgrade was an important lead-in to the inventory work.

(If you look back at the narrative demo video, you may notice that I was awkwardly getting around the limitations of the original C-E code by using the word “possess” rather than “have.” Acuitas didn't know to recognize this as a possible synonym for “have,” so it got interpreted as a generic action rather than a “has-a” link, and was admissible.)

So with that taken care of, how to get the concept of “having” into Acuitas? Making him the owner of some things struck me as the natural way to tie this idea to reality. Acuitas is almost bodiless, a process running in a computer, and therefore can't have physical objects. But he can have data. So I decided that his first two possessions would be the two test stories that I used in the video. I wrote them up as data structures in Acuitas' standard format, with the actual story sentences in a “content” field and another field to indicate the data type, saved those as text files, and put them in a hard drive folder that the program can access.

Doing things with these owned data files is a planned future behavior. For now, Acuitas can just observe the folder's contents to answer “What do you have?” questions. You can ask with a one-word version of the title (“Do you have Tobuildafire?”) or ask about categories (“Do you have a story?”, “Do you have a datum?”).

In addition to implementing that, I extended the C-E database code with some specific relationships about item possession and transfer. I could have just tried to express these as stored items in the database, but they're so fundamental that I thought it would be worth burying them in the code itself. (Additional learned relationships will be able to extend them as necessary.) These hard-coded C-E statements include things like “If X gives Y to Z, Z has Y,” and furthermore, “If Y is a physical object, X doesn't have Y.”

I made up another test story to exercise this. I can now tell this to Acuitas and watch the narrative engine make entries for the different characters and keep track of who's got the thing:

“Zach was a human. Zach had a book. A thief took the book. Zach wanted his book. Zach talked to a policeman. The policeman found the thief. The policeman took the book from the thief. The policeman gave the book to Zach. Zach read the book. Zach was happy. The end.”

There's actually a lot of ambiguity in the notion of “having” something. If “I have a book,” does that mean that I …

… am holding it?
… am keeping it in an accessible location, like my backpack or bookshelf?
… am its legal owner?
… stand in some relationship to it, e.g. am its author?

“Have” can also be used to talk about parts or aspects of the self (“I have toes”, “I have intelligence”) or temporary conditions of the self (“I have a disease,” “I have anger”). Throw in the more action-oriented versions of “have” (“I'm having a baby,” “I'm having dinner,” “I'm having friends over”) and this little word starts to get pretty complicated.

But these are thoughts for the future. At the moment, Acuitas blurs all of these possibilities into one generic idea of “having.”

Until the next cycle,