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The strange world of computer-generated novels (theverge.com)
79 points by Tomte on Nov 26, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 31 comments

Reminds me of King James Programming - excerpts from a Markov chain trained on the King James Bible and Abelson and Sussman's Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.


    3:23 And these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, 
    and all the abominations that be done in (log n) steps.

    45:5 Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of man to be ruler over my people, 
    over whom I have no son to keep the procedure general, 
    we express the process in terms of a physical analogy: 
    Think of the diagram as a maze in which a marble is rolling.

A few bits seemed rather confusing until I saw the tags; Why's Poignant Guide to Ruby is also included.

Hmm, seems like it's changed since the original incarnation. That's probably a good addition, this seems like a very _why project.

    And Satan stood up against them in the global environment.

Speaking of reminders, didn't Asimov write (as happens so often now, owing to the fact that we live in the future) a relevant short story about computer generated prose being widely adopted?

I remember reading this... EDIT: found it


I know Asimov resisted a word processor for years, and ended up switching to one from his typewriter and upping his revision speed a lot. Probably part of why he had such a huge body of writing and editing work.

Not sure. However, Nineteen Eighty-Four does mention computer-generated low-quality novels as part of the universe.

I wonder if Terry Davis has anything to do with that? (j/k)

I think it's in the book "Automate This" [1] that there is a section about a guy who has spent a lot of time building AI to write classical music. Apparently people can't tell the difference, and only criticize it after they're told it's written by a computer.

[1] http://smile.amazon.com/Automate-This-Algorithms-Markets-Wor...

Why not? Mozart did the same thing (http://sunsite.univie.ac.at/Mozart/dice/)

I think that's defensible. I'd find the exact same sequence of pitches more meaningful if they came from a human going through the emotional experience of trying to write it.

I see what you're getting it, but I think it's kind of odd. I'm curious: would the same sequence of pitches be more or less meaningful if they came from the brain of a specially trained dog?

> I'm curious: would the same sequence of pitches be more or less meaningful ...

For me, Yes. The core of the issue is that the sequence of pitches is not meaningful on its own, like all communication. When I am listening to music, assuming a human made it, I explore and project meaning, emotion, and thought on to it as if expecting it to communicate something that would complete my mental model of the artist or environment. All in an effort to feel what the music was conveying.

If I find out it was just auto generated, I feel like a fool looking for meaning in tea leaves.

That's strange to me. I like to set up synthesizers/sequencers with elaborate feedback structures to create 'interesting' musical output, which I often enjoy listening to for extended periods, especially when it goes in directions I didn't originally anticipate. A self-sustaining structure is its own musical reward for me; I don't feel any less of an emotional relationship to it for not having written out individual notes (though I enjoy doing that too). Rather, it's fascinating to me in the same manner as a growing plant or or other self-directed natural process.

To me, it's not at all about communication. It's just experience, just like a mountain or a sunset. My enjoyment of it isn't contingent on how it was made.

You are heartless


The fact that a markov machine can write music identical to that of a human indicates that, perhaps, you are placing meaning where there is none.

I may be thinking of something else, but what I recall about a similar study was that the computer was essentially mixing and matching existing classical music from known composers. So at least in that case, it was not terribly surprising that people thought the music was good.

He originally did it with rules, then he adopted an 'influence' based model.

I found an article on him: "In his view, all music — and, really, any creative pursuit — is largely based on previously created works. Call it standing on the shoulders of giants; call it plagiarism. Everything we create is just a product of recombination." [1]

[1] http://www.psmag.com/culture/triumph-of-the-cyborg-composer-...

Yes , Emily Howell.

Here is it trying to imitate Mozart : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vctssFH-M5c

Ensuring quality when you randomly generate things is hard.

I made a word generator tool. In doing so, for just 6-14 letter words, I had to develop a large amount of quality regulation formulas that would detect unnatural patterns ("xamxo" for instance might be a questionable pattern to have in a word).

Anyway, the thought of coming up with a generator to make a whole book (at least one that is coherent) is an interesting one - and much, much more challenging.

Ah, your note reminds me of The Automated Curse Generator story on The Daily WTF...:


Fun article, thanks - gave me a good laugh!

Cool stuff - and anticipated decades ago in Roald Dahl's "The Great Automatic Grammatizator"!


The world of technology and art is amazing right now, because it's like we just discovered linseed oil and are seeing people begin to create the first oil paintings.

There maybe some work to make it more... relatable? or communicable? expressible?

Had to do a little digging to get from the article to the Github repos from last year and this year:



Love 'generated detective': http://gregborenstein.com/comics/generated_detective/1/

I find this really encouraging, as 8 to 10 years ago, I used a Markov-chain type strategy to complete a novel for me when I didn't have time to enter NaNoWriMo. I did a combined corpus approach with Project Gutenberg copies of Sense and Sensibilities and Thuva, Queen of Mars. Jane Austen is far more interesting when there's a sword fight every page.

It's very interesting, I've done much the same on http://myrobotwrites.com except I kept the texts generated short to keep a tumblr posting schedule :P

It's interesting that some generators take a bottom-up, textual approach and others a top-down, agent-based approach.

Here's a site that generates short poems from lovecraftian texts. Generates pretty creepy stuff at times. I submitted it as a mini project at college.


Does the novels pass the Lovelace 2.0 test?

The Lovelace 2.0 is an alternative to the Turing test. It tests the systems capability to produce creative artefacts, like novels.

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