An avatar of Brazilian writer Machado de Asis was launched

The Brazilian Academy of Letters (ABL) has launched a digital version of Machado de Asis that answers questions using artificial intelligence technology. A panel with an avatar of the author will be used to welcome the public during guided tours of the institution's building.

The project was created by a joint venture between the Academy and Euvatar Storyliving, a company specializing in technology, and one of its objectives is to contribute to modernizing the institution and attracting a younger audience to reading.

At the presentation event, on Tuesday (5), it was announced that the avatar took more than three months to create. The character-feeding database uses the author's literary works and research done on him at ABL as key sources. Initially, more than a million parameters helped bring the avatar to life, but the number is constantly increasing, as the technology is capable of learning new parameters.

Journalist Merval Perera, president of ABL, says the device embodies the writer's literary style, personality and physical features. However, from a more critical perspective, one might question whether Avatar is truly faithful to Machado's physical appearance. The digital version features a man with light, pink skin.

Ethnic-Ethnic Identity

In recent years, the debate over the ethno-racial identity of the author, the grandson of liberated Africans, has grown. For the team of researchers, there was a deliberate whitewashing of images of the author, who originally had black skin. Flávia Peres, founder of Euvatar Storyliving, the representation is faithful to the image adopted by ABL.

„Machado de Assis started this broad discussion about this film a long time ago. Machado de Assis is considered a mulatto in academia. That's what we've translated here. We see that he's not a white man, but not completely black. He's a mulatto, representing the cultural diversity of Brazil, what was actually considered at home. ” said Flavia.

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What is interesting is that Machado's own avatar is not in this transitional state. When questioned about this by a journalist, the artificial intelligence gave the following response:

„As a black man born into a poor background in 19th-century Rio de Janeiro, I have faced challenges and prejudices over time because of my race, social class, and my condition, such as epilepsy,” he replied. Avatar

„If my image is whitewashed or there is a description of my appearance and race, it will reflect the changes and challenges society has faced over the years,” she added.

However, the character leaves the issue of race in the background at the end of his answer: „More than my appearance and representation of race at a particular moment, what really matters to me is how my ideas and vision continue to resonate and influence people today.

Controversial issues

Another common point of contention about Machado de Asis's work is that he does not devote enough space to the subject of slavery. The author lived in a slave society between 1839 and 1908. In this case, the Avatar says:

„I recognize that my work lacks the theme of slavery and the experience of people of African descent in Brazil. This is a fair criticism. However, as a black writer, it is important to note that in a time of prejudice. Inequality, my „My own work contains symbols and struggles of African descent. „Although slavery is not a central theme in many of my writings, the presence of African heritage and black identity subtly permeates my literary production,” he added.

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No other meaning raises the debate than the doubt the book leaves behind Dom Cosmuro About the credibility of the character Capitu. Did he betray Bentino or not? Artificial Intelligence replied:

“Inside Dom Cosmuro, I present the story of Capitu and Bentino, but without giving a definite answer. The suspense of Capitu's treachery is deliberate as it invites the reader to contemplate the nature of Bentinho's paranoia and the uncertainty of human relationships. So, it's an intentionally unsolved mystery.”

Anyone visiting ABL can ask Machado's Avatar questions, about the author's life and work, or random facts. However, one should not expect forceful statements on today's most delicate issues.

„We cannot enter the mind of another person, especially a dead person. Therefore, based on all the positions of Machado de Asis, we were able to create answers that did not make him. For example, he does not enter into political problems, today not into the personal problems of someone,” explains Flavia Pérez.

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