Computers Now Stealing Literature, Dorito Jobs
Have you ever wanted to read a story written by a machine, just like the proles did in 1984? Well your long wait is finally over! Say hello to Brutus, a computer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute programmed with a series of mathematical equations that enable it to write fiction. And yes, the results are every bit as good as that statement makes it sound. Look out, Janet Evanovich!
Leaving aside questions like, “Why would we need technology to save us the work of writing fiction? Isn’t that something humans enjoy doing?” and instead appreciating it as an exciting step toward building silicon humans of our very own, this development also gives us a clear look into the gaping maw of the uncanny valley. The writing is indeed lifelike, in a be-sure-to-use-all-of-this-week’s-vocab-words kind of way, but also betrays in subtle ways the numerical logic that drafted it. Meditating on the theme of betrayal, Brutus writes one story that includes a professor torpedoing a student in one paragraph, then trying to figure out how he can help the student in the very next paragraph. Is this professor the guy from Memento? Because you can’t just reboot a human, Brutus! The short stories also include such scintillating dialogue as, “I’m puzzled as to why you prefer not to use the well-known alpha-beta minimax algorithm for your search?” Aren’t we all.
There’s apparently another computer called the “Creativity Machine” (what a creative name, right?) that can design snack foods and military systems, which seems about right given the aggressively anti-human nature of both tasks. However, as unsettling as a future of algorithm-driven chunky chews and bodice rippers may be, the write-up from Public Radio International does have an upbeat ending. “Will we all soon be out of a job?” the possibly robotic copy drone gamely queries in the midst of a long and grinding worldwide recession. “Many of us, maybe.” Jesus H. Thanks a lot, science.
[Image via 50 Watts]
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