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Using Machine Learning to write the Queen’s Christmas Message


In their excellent book “The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus” Hannah Fry (aka @FryRsquared) and Thomas Oléron Evans (aka @Mathistopheles) talked about using Markov Chains to generate the Queen’s Christmas message. You can read a bit about that here. After reading that chapter I asked Hannah and Thomas if they had considered repeating this using recurrant neural networks. A couple of years ago Andrej Karpathy wrote a blog that he summarised as follows:

We’ll train RNNs to generate text character by character and ponder the question “how is that even possible?”

In his blog he posed the question:

It looks like we can learn to spell English words. But how about if there is more structure and style in the data?

and went on to train an rNN to write text in the style of  Shakespeare. I recommend you read his blog to see the examples and get an idea of what is going on.

You might also want to watch this video from the excellent Computerphile on a similar subject.

In a previous blog I decide to have a go at using rNNs to generate lyrics for my favourite band New Model Army. Thomas was kind enough to send me the text for the Queen’s previous speeches that he and Hannah had used in their work, and I thought I’d see how good rNNs were at generating a Royal Christmas message.  I didn’t do anything particular fancy here…just followed the code and examples in Karpathy’s original blog on a fairly standard home desktop machine.

Here are some of the results… (I take no responsibility for any text generated by the neural network :)).

One parameter that can be adjusted to generate the output is ‘temperature’. This takes a value between 0 and 1. Lower temperature will cause the model to make more likely, but also more boring and conservative predictions. Higher temperatures cause the model to take more chances and increase diversity of results, but at a cost of more mistakes. Running with a temperaure of 0.5 we get:

i want to send a special message of the human spirit are much to be for everyone this is a happy and part of the christmas story so in the same streed. we are all truly new zealand in an example of the commonwealth has an equal place in the lives of men and women and what they have to show that they are all life in their own peoples of the commonwealth which we have come to the sacrifice of all the fortunes of hope and there are many heart of our grandchildren the presents the prince of wales and will have a preacher group of the commonwealth. on a strong and spreading the responsibility to the commonwealth who are much on the courage of the modern world and the commonwealth games and there are many others at home and the rest of the world have been inspired by the courage and enjoyment and the present peace of a commonwealth which is how to promote the games and from all walks of life and to become a growing peace on earth which we should me to see the strength to try to do so in the world today. it was a great conflict remain inspired by the courage and prince philip and i were able to see buckingham palace which the most special year for the commonwealth is to be movement and in a different furmestand and they are all source of spirit all over the world have shared a moment in the year and the christmas message is to be consed rather a quicter and the contribution of the family of nations and i have meen and wonderful in both these ordarisasions or a common sense and encouragement. this year i am speaking to you from the same family make the world in the world. the christmas message is so many of them and i have difference to the best of ourselves. and this year there are something to look at the world they are may be a life of all the world is the commonwealth is a sense of belonging to the world i was well as they are all sort of moment the more depression

I’m not sure this makes a lot of sense, and there are a few oddities/errors in the text.

I tried lowering the temperature to 0.3:

i hope that the christmas message is to be there and it is not only a very happy christmas to you all. i am speaking to you from the commonwealth and i have been able to see that the commonwealth and i have been deeply touched this year i am speaking to you from the same family friends and communities as the future of the commonwealth and as i have always given to many of you will have heard of the more conscious of the commonwealth and around us we should be able to see that the commonwealth and i have been deeply touched the strength to try to do the same family gathering in the commonwealth and i have all been about the future as well as a great comfort to us all the problems of the commonwealth and i have seen in their own way the problems of the commonwealth and i have been deeply touched the world the progress of the commonwealth and around us we are common throughout the commonwealth who are struck by the state of the commonwealth and i have depended to see in the world today that we should remember those who have seen in their own way a celebration of the child who was born at christmas time for families and friends will never be very different problems but it is not only a time for reflection and confidence to the commonwealth and i have all been about the world that we should not be our lives and to remind us of the future. i am speaking to you from the commonwealth and i have been deeply touched the world that we can all try to make a splendid birthday and the commonwealth and i have been floods and sadness and the best of the world have been able to discuss the best of ourselves. i believe that this christmas day i want to send a special message of hope in the face of hardship is nothing new that of the commonwealth who have seen in their lives in the commonwealth and in the commonwealth and i have been able to discuss the best of ourselves. we are all live together as a great daily and its war the commonwealth

As suggested the the result here is a bit more predictable/boring.

It is also possible to prime the model with some starting text using. This starts out the RNN with some hardcoded characters to warm it up with some context before it starts generating text.

Using a temperature of 0.5 and prime text of ‘Each Christmas’ we get:

each christmas is a time for reflection and grandchildren the more depends of a dedication of the commonwealth and around us of the future of the commonwealth games in the rich and proud of life in a great religions and its members. but i am also speaking by instince in the right through the members of my family and i have been great and personal responsibility to our lives and they say to me that there are many happy or so many countries of the future with the prince of peace and happiness and self-respect for the commonwealth and is a happy and prosperous future of the world we will be achieved with the opportunity to help them are a contribution to the powerful ways of spirit and learning to see the problems of the commonwealth and i have seen in their inestivation the peoples of the commonwealth and i have been for the better but that is possible to the people and the christians it’s all those who are great practical form we have all been for them to be a chance to get the gift of a carren of different lives the service of their people throughout the world. we are all live in the rolin to our children and grandchildren the present generation to see this country and arrived the same for one another which is most popularity and the rest of the world and all the great commonwealth. pronomed news the responsibilities for the duty of events which we have all been the holidic of science. it is they all who are so there and shared heritage and sometimes in saint paul’s and much considerate and to communication the human spirit. and they can be a contralle commonwealth and a firm landmark in the course of the many servicemen and women who are broken for many that can be a precious given us to be a witness this continuing that we can all be the contribution of the commonwealth and as we all have all the features of the love of hope and goodwill. this year has constantly will be overcome. i believe that this year i am speaking to you from the hope of a determination and continues to all

Using a temperature of 0.5 and prime text of ‘This  past year’ we get:

this past year has been one to see that what i have been for the commonwealth and around us we are thinking of the problems show in the face of the fact that he wanted the strongly that we should show many of them service is the birth of the commonwealth. it is a contribution of a lives of family and friends for parents and religious difficulties at the commonwealth and as we all share the future as the future of the future. it was a moment and that the christmas message of the things that have been god shown in the earliest care and for the commonwealth can give the united kingdom and across the commonwealth. it is a helping one of the march of people who are so easy to go but the rest of the world have shaped for their determination and courage of what is right the life of life is word if we can do the state of the same time last month i was welcomed as you and that the opportunity to honour the most important of the thread which have provided a strong and family. even the commonwealth is a common bond that the old games and in the courage which the generations of the commonwealth and i have those to succeed without problems which have their course all that the world has been complete strangers which could have our response. i believe that the triditings of reconciliation but there is nothing in and happy or acts of the commonwealth and around us by science the right of all the members of the world have been difficult and the benefits of dreads and happiness and service to the commonwealth of the future. i wish you all a very happy christmas to you all.

So there you have it. Not sure we’ll be replacing the Queen with an AI anytime soon. Merry Christmas!

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