Will Computers Write Novels One Day? Or, More Importantly, Will They Write YOUR Novel For You?
Maybe the question is — will readers know the difference?
Those are scary ideas to me. I put a lot of time and energy into my novels, but more vitally for me, I put my imagination, intuition and serendipity into them. I also create characters that feel real to me, whose voices I hear in my head.
The proposal that a computer with AI (artificial intelligence) can write is already happening. In a New Yorker article, the writer talks about AI that can write poetry, with the aim being machines that “use language, form abstractions and concepts” — in the same way we do when we write a poem. The conclusion the writer came to was that a computer needs so much data input and training that to write an authentic poem is not possible.
Still, people try. Ai-Da is a very realistic robot invented by Aidan Meller in Oxford, central England, and Ai-Da gave a performance recently of the poetry it had written using algorithms in celebration of Dante. Note that these were not original poems — Meller had “inputted” all of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and the robot had used them to create its own. So — input and output.
My question is: if the average reader who knew a bit of Dante read Ai-Da’s poem, without knowing a robot wrote it, would they notice? Most people who read poetry casually (as distinct from keen poets and academics) probably wouldn’t realize.
Back to my novels. Or anyone’s novels. We all like to think that our stories and voices are unique. Certainly our voices are. I think of T.S. Eliot’s essay “Tradition and the individual talent”, where he basically says everyone writes in their own way — we are the sum total of all of our experiences, including what we read, see, hear, interpret and believe. And this can change from month to month or year to year, as more experiences are fed into our brains.
Which kind of sounds like what computer AI does…
When I ponder what goes into my Judi Westerholme crime novels, for example, I think first of all the research I do. True crime stories start me thinking, then I find out all I can about various things I need to know to…