Artificial Intelligence can Now Write Poetry—but It won't be Winning Awards

Fagjun | Published 2017-07-08 04:46

AI can now produce poetry, one letter at a time.

An artificial intelligence program can now write lines of poetry that can seem like a human poet wrote them.

We can say that artistic expression is something that is truly human, but that may not be true after all. It seems that machines can now learn how to create art that can rival the works that human artists create. Scientists have already developed a program that can create paintings as well as new art styles. Will AI soon be supplanting humans not just in industry but even art?

This may be a question that both scientists and artists will need to explore sooner rather than later. Art, which we've always considered to be the product of human emotions and sensibilities, can now be produced by emotionless machines. If we can't tell the difference between the work of human beings and the work of AI programs, then what is the difference between human and machine capabilities?

Machines and Their Bad Poetry

The AI program learned words and poetry styles by studying literature.

The artificial intelligence program, which has trained on a ton of lines of poetry, has been able to mimic poetic styles to write its own verses. It can thus write about a specific theme in one of the many styles it has learned. For example, you can ask the program to write a poem about an emotion like delight in the style of Eminem. You can even ask it to write about Donald Trump in the style of Shakespeare.

However, just because the program can write poetry doesn't mean that it can write poetry well. Just as humans can write bad poetry, so can the program. Take a gander at this little poem that the program wrote about desolation as a theme:

The frozen waters that are dead are now

black as the rain to freeze a boundless sky, and frozen ode of our terrors with the grisly lady shall be free to cry”

Apologies to Byron, who must be spinning in his grave. How does the program come up with its poetry anyway?

Human or Artificial Intelligence?

Who can write poetry better--humans or machines?

The program has pored over more than seven million words in 20th century English poetry. It can write verses one letter at a time, and programmer Jack Hopkins has encouraged the program to write in specific styles. Thus, don't expect the program to be freestyling any time soon.

This is also what sets the program apart from human poets. Modern poets have departed from the rigid styles of times past. However, the program won't be able to create poetry without the guidance of these styles. Creating something new requires creativity, which is difficult to cultivate if you have to rely on something that's already been done.

Still, the poems the program created can still be quite convincing in spite of the limitations. Hopkins had asked 70 people to guess whether a human or artificial intelligence wrote a particular bit of poetry. In fact, you can take the test yourself and see if you can tell which poems were by humans or by AI. The results may surprise you.

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