Despite our ingrained mechanophobia, everyday we find more examples of robots doing creative chores, including as writing books. There are over a million books that can ber purchased on Amazon written by robots. Granted most of these books are non-fiction works, but they are books non the less. Over. A. Million. Books written by robots! Crazy.
Does writing a book require an algorithm, intelligence or a “soul”?
Here’s an extract from an interview with Phil Parker, a writer of algorithms that write books. Parker explains the spirit of his algorithm and the goals of it:
I have not created any new way of writing. All I’m doing is writing computer programs that mimic the way people write. Going back to the Elizabethan sonnets, Shakespeare or one of his contemporaries created the 14-line iambic pentameter poem, where the rhyming pattern was ‘a-b, a-b, c-d, c-d, e-f, e-f g-g.’ G-g being a couplet at the end. By line 9 there has to be a turn in the poem, so there has to be a phrase like ‘yet’ or ‘but.’ The first line is typically a question, which acts as a title. All of them are 10 syllables in each line… they have to go in the rhythm of that pattern. If you do an analysis of sonnets, you’ll realize that about 10% of sonnets violate those rules. But they do it only in a very particular way. Even that formulation of violation is itself constrained… Once you have all of those rules you then write algorithms that mimic those rules. It’s a very different kind of philosophy from artificial intelligence.
[…] There’s the classic turing test about a conversation with a robot: Can you tell the difference between a robot and a real human who’s conversing with you? Is there something different about these topics? I don’t think anybody would look at our crossword puzzle books and say, ‘Oh my gosh, a computer wrote this,’ because most crossword puzzles are so formulaic that you would expect it to be formulaic… If people find it useful to be in a formulaic format, so much the better. The goal isn’t to sound better than an author. The goal is to deliver something useful to people. That’s the end of it, no more. Otherwise, why bother doing it?