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Subject: "Automated writng. How soon?" Previous topic | Next topic
Mesg #90552 "Automated writng. How soon?"
Author Weird Jim     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Jun 13th 2002
6262 posts
Date Wed Mar-21-12 02:25 PM
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Yesterday I read an article that mentioned that Forbes, the financial newspaper has been using a firm called Narrative Sciences to computer generate short (500 words) articles on financial trends. Today I've browsed an article on an analysis of the life and death of new words. The analysts used Google's five million scanned books.

If there is such a thing as formula fiction that has a pattern, one as yet not analysed because the human mind is not capable of it, then there should be no problem for a 'really' good computer being able to manage the task. If this happens, will some genre fiction, in the future, be written by a computer.

Can you visulize it? Not only will Kindle display a novel, it will also be able to write it on demand. "Give me novel with a sexy female vampire who is also a witch." And up it comes. Vampires For You by A. Kindle

Weird Jim

"Good reading is the only test of good writing"
Robertson Davies. A voice from the attic 1960

  

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Replies to this topic
RE: Automated writng. How soon?, Wandering Author, Mar 21st 2012, #1
RE: Automated writng. How soon?, Weird Jim, Mar 21st 2012, #2
      RE: Automated writng. How soon?, Temporus, Mar 22nd 2012, #3
      RE: Automated writng. How soon?, Weird Jim, Mar 22nd 2012, #4
      RE: Automated writng. How soon?, Wandering Author, Mar 22nd 2012, #5
           RE: Automated writng. How soon?, Weird Jim, Mar 23rd 2012, #6
                RE: Automated writng. How soon?, Michael E. Walston, Mar 24th 2012, #7

Mesg #90553 "RE: Automated writng. How soon?"
Author Wandering Author     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Jun 01st 2007
1569 posts
Date Wed Mar-21-12 05:31 PM
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In response to Reply # 0

Wed Mar-21-12 05:36 PMby Wandering Author

It is one thing to "write" a short factual article, and quite another to write fiction. Even then, the automatically generated articles are hardly the in-depth, thought provoking pieces I tend to like to read.

As for fiction: let's take your example, "a novel with a sexy female vampire who is also a witch". Say ten of us on these boards decided to write that novel. You'd end up with ten very different stories. And that is the charm in fiction, at least for me. (Slightly off-topic digression: I always find those projects where a number of writers explore the same idea fascinating. One idea, as many different stories as there are writers.)

A computer either has to recycle stale elements, or almost guarantee inappropriate juxtapositions. It is unlikely, unless computers develop real intelligence (that is, something more than following an algorithm), that they'll be able to offer striking insights and fresh takes on old tropes. And their stories will have no personality.

That isn't to say you may not be partly right. There may be such novels. There may even be readers for them. But, except perhaps to read one or two to satisfy my curiosity, I won't be one of those readers. There is a huge difference between a story generated by following some generic pattern, with random choices for the details, and a story which is told from a particular, individual viewpoint. That's all any of us have to offer now, our own unique view of the world, our own angle on life - and that's the one thing that each of us will still have to set us apart. Until computers develop to the point where they can form their own unique viewpoints, they won't be able to compete. (And when they can, they'll just be adding more potential authors to the mix.)

Just because the economy works in such a way that books tend to have similar prices, we forget that they aren't all equal. Your list of names would surely differ from mine - but I am sure you can think of authors whose books you wouldn't even pay the 'standard' price for - and authors whose books you'd gladly shell out ten times that price, if you had it. The stories inside those covers are not all the same. If they were, why would we ever buy and read different books? So even if an AI developed that was capable of writing stories, although that would be fascinating, and I'd certainly buy at least one book to see what their viewpoint and writing style was like - it wouldn't suddenly mean anyone else's stories were less interesting to me.

Edited to add: And we already have generic, stale stories today. In any genre I know anything about, I can think of 'cookie cutter' examples that were obviously churned out to meet what some hack writer or bean counter thought was a market demand. If nothing else, almost every TV show and movie ever turned into a book after the fact (as opposed to the other way around) exposes the flaws of the original in a glaring way. Even if the original was pretty good, whatever flaws it had will show up in high relief once someone turns it into a book.

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Mesg #90554 "RE: Automated writng. How soon?"
Author Weird Jim     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Jun 13th 2002
6262 posts
Date Wed Mar-21-12 06:55 PM
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In response to Reply # 1

I wasn't thinking of AI. I was thinking and wondering about present day computers detecting patterns. As far as authoring computers go, psychological traits could be factored in. It wouldn't matter if they were wrong because there is no way, at present, that a reader, or even a psychologist can know anothers mind. Hints and directions are all there is, plus much assumption by psychologists based on their own experiences, even though they are trained to eliminate such things. I was hoping to try a study of a few popular books over the Winter to see if I could detect a pattern, but I've had health problems. I'm sure one is there. Humans, I believe, are herd animals. There is the occasional one, of course, who goes a different way, but most don't. I ride buses in a cosmopolitan city and find it amazing how similar are the facial expressions of the various races.

I mentioned that computers must first analyse a large portion of the five million books Google have digitized. As for not reading them, you'd first have to be able to detect them.

Weird Jim

"Good reading is the only test of good writing"
Robertson Davies. A voice from the attic 1960

  

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Mesg #90555 "RE: Automated writng. How soon?"
Author Temporus     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Mar 28th 2006
199 posts
Date Thu Mar-22-12 10:23 AM
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In response to Reply # 2

Have you checked out Booklamp.org? It's an interesting attempt to analyze fiction. Not sure if it could be flipped to produce fiction, but it tries to do with Fiction what Pandora does for music. Though in general, I think Music is a more natural and easier thing to handle with computers. Music is already to some large degree a subset of mathematics. And once it's all in the math, it's just that much easier to analyze and understand the details. But that's my general opinion.

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Mesg #90556 "RE: Automated writng. How soon?"
Author Weird Jim     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Jun 13th 2002
6262 posts
Date Thu Mar-22-12 02:12 PM
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In response to Reply # 3

Thanks. That's an interesting site. Since 2003 for bookgenome.com.

Weird Jim

"Good reading is the only test of good writing"
Robertson Davies. A voice from the attic 1960

  

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Mesg #90557 "RE: Automated writng. How soon?"
Author Wandering Author     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Jun 01st 2007
1569 posts
Date Thu Mar-22-12 10:21 PM
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In response to Reply # 2

Thu Mar-22-12 10:27 PMby Wandering Author

I know you weren't talking about AIs. But I simply don't believe that the computers and programming that we have now can 'write' anything beyond the dry, factual articles and 'books' that are presently being generated. Even those factual pieces are hardly shining examples of journalism or anything else. And fiction is a lot tougher to get right, even if non-fiction can be tougher to make really interesting.

Now, obviously, neither of us knows for sure. You could be entirely right, and I could be wrong. There's no way I can think of to prove my negative, and unless (or until) what you predict actually becomes reality, there's no way to prove your prediction either. But if there's any potential for more, I haven't seen any indications of it.

Are there patterns in fiction? Undoubtedly. The ones computers could extract would be too broad and vague to build good fiction on, at least as far as I understand what you're saying. At best, a generator might be written which would throw together a clumsy skeleton of a story for a writer to flesh out. And any of the attempts at doing that I've seen aren't very good. I think, to do the kind of analysis you're talking about, you'd need an AI, or close to it. Look at Google, and what they're capable of. Translate has gotten a bit better, but it still can't even get that right - and that's with a lot of human tweaking of the algorithm, and all of the Googlplex's massive resources behind it. They're still struggling to understand the context of words well enough to provide really relevant search results. (Try searching for just about any term with several meanings; if you don't happen to want the most easily 'monetised' one, you'll have to wade through a lot of junk to get where you want to be - or craft a very careful, targeted search to get there.)

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Mesg #90558 "RE: Automated writng. How soon?"
Author Weird Jim     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Jun 13th 2002
6262 posts
Date Fri Mar-23-12 11:54 AM
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In response to Reply # 5

Fri Mar-23-12 12:11 PMby Weird Jim

I did say 'future' in my original post. I didn't want to mention how far in the future.

If I say ten years now, then it won't matter to me because I expect to be gone by then.

It was meant as a light-hearted thought, anyway.

Although, maybe I'll have them (who they?) download my mind to a computer.


Weird Jim

"Good reading is the only test of good writing"
Robertson Davies. A voice from the attic 1960

  

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Mesg #90559 "RE: Automated writng. How soon?"
Author Michael E. Walston     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Dec 16th 2002
601 posts
Date Sat Mar-24-12 02:09 AM
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In response to Reply # 6

Sat Mar-24-12 02:11 AMby Michael E. Walston

I agree completely with Wandering Author's analysis.

Creativity, in my opinion, is one of the fruits of consciousness, which I believe flows from a spiritual level rather than a physical one. In other words, genuine creativity has little to do with the chemical and electrical processes in our brains; it comes from a much deeper place (There, is that vague enough for you?).

That's not to say that cookie-cutter fiction from a computer isn't possible. But even then I think you have to consider the creativity of the computer programmer when you look at the whole situation. There used to be a a program called "Music Mouse" that would create musical compositions based on where you hovered your mouse pointer on a grid. As I recall, the programmer wanted partial credit for any resulting pieces of music that were released commercially.

I'm not saying machines can't develop souls, by the way. All of my vehicles have come to have definite personalities over the years, and I don't think that's been my imagination at work.

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