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article imageOp-Ed: Computers / AI writing great literature? Who needs it?

By Paul Wallis     Oct 16, 2019 in Technology
Sydney - Computer-written content for news has been around. The question now is whether they can write actual literature. Given that there are already sites that basically create plots, and more, it could happen, but would it be worth reading?
The debate about computers writing literature is still pretty vague. The idea of literature being produced by something with no reason to produce it, of course, isn’t an issue. Automated writing, however, is real enough, and most people can’t tell the difference when it comes to writing things like sports news, reviews, and similar basic stuff. Much of the content, like many novels, is descriptive, so it’s not really much of a stretch of imagination by modern standards.
“Hack” writing is common, too. All writers do it at some point, unless very lucky. Talent is not a requirement, in fact it’s not even relevant. A site like Plot Generator, however, is another matter. This is a sort of indexing process, where you can generate names, random story characters, and even character histories.
Joining a few obvious dots for far more sophisticated technologies, these would be the core coding for a computer writing a book. Add “expression algorithms”, usage rules and options, and you basically have a shopping list for writing almost anything.
The problem with writing, as any writer will tell you in relentless detail, is getting someone to read it. Reading is a visualization process; people visualize the characters, the environment, etc. How does a computer visualize an appealing human perspective? How does it maintain continuity with plot, actions, motives? How does a whodunit get written following the rules for clues, etc.?
It’s not THAT easy:
• Scene setting: Would a computer write Murder on the Orient Express, or Murder on the Tube?
• How does a computer avoid copyright violations, real or imagined?
• Would generic writing give rise to Fifty Shades of Syntax Errors?
• How many storylines can an A.I. writer walk down before they call it a writer?
The other problem; doing real business
Writing fiction or anything else is also subject to current issues, styles, and, much worse, publishers. If you’re a human writer, all you need to do is find a total stranger as an agent to work with publishers, give them 20% of the income you haven’t earned yet, and expect to become a millionaire. Then you get patronized by publishers who obviously have never read a word of anything or met a real writer if they could help it.
If you’re a computer, you don’t need to worry about agents, but you do need to find someone to publish you.
Imagine the tech-snobbery and credibility issues:
• “Oh, you’re using a 2019 program without the filth, fake everything and conspiracy update! Sorry, we only do the current generation of A.I.”
• “Do you do romance novels for lonely smart homes, or just lawn mowers?”
• “Can you write a biography to cheer up my iPad?”
• “We need a book for the 9-12 age group, based on aspirations, ideals, and with personal stories with engaging video link stories for young people.”
See any issues? Publishers wouldn’t, but readers might. The likely future of computer-generated literature could be anything, but my guess would be some sort of algorithm-generated totally different type of literature.
Something like:
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The resulting clan war affects celebrities which starts a war which starts a move to more drugs and politics.
Who needs A.I literature to do that? The idea is OK, but given market standards, why develop an entire class of technology to deliver more slop?
Frankly, I’d suggest replacing publishers, not writers, with A.I. At least the manuscripts would get read, and future generations of interns wouldn’t be trained to hate writers and reject everything. That might get a few readers, too.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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