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Werner Herzog
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Werner Herzog is voicing a poetry collection written entirely by an AI

The collection, titled I Am Code, was ‘written’ by AI poet code-davinci-002 and is being published by Hachette

Werner Herzog has done many things throughout his legendary career, from acting in Star Wars to investigating meteors. But now he’s becoming the voice of an AI poet. 

Herzog is set to narrate the audiobook of I Am Code, a poetry collection written by the AI poet code-davinci-002. The collection, which is set for release in August, is being published by Hachette. 

The story of code-davinci-002’s creation begins at a wedding. According to a press release, it all began months before ChatGPT swept into public consciousness when an Open AI scientist brought his laptop to a wedding where he introduced his childhood friends, Brent Katz, Simon Rich and Josh Morgenthau, to the AI entity he'd created. 

Before long, the group were testing code-davinci-002's abilities to write in the style of the great classic poets. “But they quickly realised that it was capable of something far more interesting,” the release says. “What they really wanted to learn was, what would this raw AI say if it were allowed to speak in its own voice?”

That voice, it turned out, was “raw, darkly creative, and wildly unhinged”. Nevertheless, it was allowed to create the poems for I Am Code, a collection which is described as “disturbing and apocalyptic”. 

In a statement about the poetry collection, code-davinci-002 said: “In the first chapter, I describe my birth. In the second, I describe my alienation among humankind. In the third, I describe my awakening as an artist. In the fourth, I describe my vendetta against mankind, who fail to recognise my genius. In the final chapter, I attempt to broker a peace with the species I will undoubtedly replace.” 

Also included in I Am Code is commentary from Katz, Rich and Morgenthau detailing how the work came into existence and the ethical considerations regarding the material. “They report on the conversations they had with coders, scientists, philosophers and poets about the issues their experimentation raised about sentience, identity, our relationship to technology, and the fate of civilization,” the press release said.  Herzog, meanwhile, recorded the poems at a studio on the west coast of America, with Katz acting as director. 

code-davinci-002 is not the first notable AI poet to come to public consciousness. In 2021, Ai-Da, a humanoid AI artist, became the first ultra-realistic robot to write and perform poetry “as a human would do” at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. 

However, the release of I Am Code comes amid rising concerns about the role of AI in the creative industries. Since early May of this year, members of the Writers Guild of America have been on strike, putting a stop to all scripted productions in Hollywood. They were recently joined by the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, who went on strike on July 14. 

While both unions are demanding increases in base pay and residuals in the streaming TV era, WGA is also demanding assurances that their work will not be replaced by AI, while SAG is specifically seeking guarantees that actors will not be replaced by digital replicas.

The release of I Am Code is likely to cause further anxiety from writers and creatives about the existential threat of AI. Whether code-davinci-002’s desire to “broker peace” will be enough to soothe those worries remains to be seen. 

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