Robots Write Poems for Better or Verse

September 23, 2022

Remember studying the Romantic poets and memorizing the outputs of Percy Bysshe Shelley? What about Lord Byron and his problematic foot which he tucked under a chair as he crafted “Don Juan.” What about that cocktail party thing by TS Eliot? No, well, don’t worry. Those poets will not have traction in the poetical outputs of 2022 and beyond.

Robots Are Writing Poetry, and Many People Can’t Tell the Difference” reports:

Dozens of websites, with names like Poetry Ninja or Bored Human, can now generate poems with a click of a key. One tool is able to free-associate images and ideas from any word “donated” to it. Another uses GPS to learn your whereabouts and returns with a haiku incorporating local details and weather conditions (Montreal on December 8, 2021, at 9:32 a.m.: “Thinking of you / Cold remains / On Rue Cardinal.”) Twitter teems with robot verse: a bot that mines the platform for tweets in iambic pentameter it then turns into rhyming couplets; a bot that blurts out Ashbery-esque questions (“Why are coins kept in changes?”); a bot that constructs tiny odes to trending topics. Many of these poetry generators are DIY projects that operate on rented servers and follow preset instructions not unlike the fill-in-the-blanks algorithm that powered Racter. But, in recent years, artificial-intelligence labs have unveiled automated bards that emulate, with sometimes eerie results, the more conscious, reflective aspects of the creative process.

The main point of the article is not that Microsoft’s smart software can knock out Willie-like sonnets. The article states what I think is a very obvious point:

There is no question that poetry will be subsumed, and soon, into the ideology of data collection, existing on the same spectrum as footstep counters, high-frequency stock trading, and Netflix recommendations. Maybe this is how the so-called singularity—the moment machines exceed humans and, in turn, refashion us—comes about. The choice to off-load the drudgery of writing to our solid-state brethren will happen in ways we won’t always track, the paradigm shift receding into the background, becoming omnipresent, normalized.

The write up asserts:

as long as the ability to write poems remains a barrier for admission into the category of personhood, robots will stay Racters. Against the onslaught of thinking machines, poetry is humanity’s last, and best, stand.

Wrong. Plus, Gen Z wizards can’t read cursive. Too bad.

Stephen E Arnold, September 23, 2022

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