Stuff I Found

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Can Computers Write Books?

According to this New York Times article, a man named Philip M. Parker

has developed computer algorithms that collect publicly available information on a subject — broad or obscure — and, aided by his 60 to 70 computers and six or seven programmers, he turns the results into books in a range of genres, many of them in the range of 150 pages and printed only when a customer buys one.

And here's a (boring) YouTube video explaining the process:

Hmmm... I'm not really impressed. This was my YouTube comment:

This looks like its more about data collecting and formatting than actual "automated content authorship" as it doesn't look like the software is actually doing anything that would seem creative. It would probably be more helpful if he sold the software he developed instead of the "data books" he generates.

And learning a new language involves more than vocabulary. The game and the word of the day video look like just fancy flash cards. Ooh, flash cards, what an innovation! :-P

After I hit "Post Comment" button, it said "Comment Pending Approval" which I guess means that Philip will have to approve my criticism for the comment to show up there... so let's see whether or not it does! But it appears here anyway, so it's not like I'll lose it.

All that said, I do not think the notion of computers being creative is far-fetched... look at the books by professor David Cope, who wrote software that writes music (convincing music, that is, unlike any other person's attempts I've heard) and the book The Creative Process: A Computer Model of Storytelling and Creativity by Scott R. Turner. Mind-boggling and exciting stuff in those books! Philip M. Parker's programs could not write books like those!


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