As automation slowly crept into every aspect of our lives, writers used to comfort themselves that their jobs were safe. Sure, factory workers, supermarket cashiers and even drivers were being replaced; but how could a damn robot come up with creative insights into the human soul?
While the company’s latest AI isn’t quite producing a new Catcher in the Rye, it is a step closer to writing its own Twilight. Researchers have trained the network using 12,000 ebooks, most of which are the kind of romance novels your mum won’t admit to reading.
They then gave it two different sentences and asked it to fill in the gaps to get from one statement to the next. While melodramatic, the results were also eerily human and even poignant:
there is no one else in the world. (human sentence)
there is no one else in sight.
they were the only ones who mattered.
they were the only ones left.
he had to be with me.
she had to be with him.
i had to do this.
i wanted to kill him.
i started to cry.
i turned to him. (human sentence)
This isn’t the first time circuitry has tried to mimic creativity – earlier this year a human-AI combo tried to win a Japanese literature competition. The human writer came up with the plot outline, basic character details and a selection of sentences while the AI cobbled these together into a piece of writing.
While they didn’t win (phew) their novel did pass the first round of selection; not only was the work good enough to pass for human, but a fairly good human with literary merit. As this technology progresses, writers may be able to outsource much of the work to their AI ghost writers after having come up with a basic plot and characters.
While these future robots may not come up with something fresh and insightful like Thomas Pynchon or uniquely terrible like Stephenie Meyer, they will almost certainly be able to churn out a standard James Patterson (who already uses ghost writers) or supernatural romance at an alarming rate.
Could our shelves and eReaders be taken over by shitloads of mechanically separated processed prose while genuine human insight becomes a rare novelty, and even terrible fanfiction can be marketed as artisanally crafted?
“I flush at the waywardness of my subconscious – she’s doing her happy dance in a bright red hula skirt at the thought of being his.” – Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James (human)
Let’s hope not.