Thursday, November 30, 2006

Who's ready for Robot Overlords? I am, I am!

For some reason, computers beating humans at chess has always worried me. I know chess is a logical game, mathematical even, but there's all that strategy, all that creativity, all those glorified checkers: that's the stuff of humans, right? We're supposed to be the poets and composers and scientists and chess champions, right? Computers are supposed to calculate pi to the umpteenth digit, allow me to aggressively avoid work, and watch videos of people embarrassing themselves whenever I'm feeling vindictive, right? Right?

Oh, but no. Paging John Connor.

In case you haven't been keeping up on your chess gossip (and of course I know you all have), World Champion Vladimir Kramnik (not American in any way) is half-way through a six-game match against mega-mega-chess-computer-of-death Deep Fritz. And, yes, the computer is once again destroying humanity. In fact, not only did Team Human lose the only game that didn't end in a stalemate, but he choked spectacularly, just like the 2004 Yankees or a parachuting clown eating thumbtacks.

It gets better. Or worse, depending on your point of view. In a experiment around 1999, humans were given 28 poem stanzas---a majority of which had been written by a computer, the rest by famous poets---and judges were able to pick correctly...six out of ten times. Which, if you're keeping score, is one coin flip in ten better than blind stupid chance. Not exactly the score you want to hear. And while you're expecting the computer poems to sound something like "MS Word/ DOS DOS Windows/ 011/ 000" we're going to play "Are you a robot sympathizer?" It'll be fun, I promise.

Remember: one of these is a stanza from a real poem by a famous and often lauded poet (I'll tell you who later) while the other was written by a poetputer. Let's play:

#1
What seas, what shores, what granite islands towards my timbers
and woodthrush calling through the fog
My daughter.

#2
Imagine now a tree in white sails still whirled
About the leaves
will be of silences
Calm and angels

Not that easy, right? Leave a comment, take a stab at it. No cheating. I mean, while we're waiting for the robot apocalypse, we might as well have a little fun. There's room in my bunker for at least ten of us. I call top bunk.

25 comments:

Tyler said...

It's the first one... Humans are too lazy to use punctuation.

Jake said...

Second one for sure. I'm not buying "will be of silences"

kasi said...

My bid is on #2 also.
And thanks for the mid-day game!

birdmonster said...

Dissent already. This is wonderful. And you're welcome Kasi.

Anonymous said...

number one is written by human and i would tell you who too, but that would ruin the game. i'm sure of it, almost 100%. at least 80%. so i'm pretty damn sure about it.

rebecca said...

Oh dear, this is stressful. I'd like to say #1 was written by a real person and #2 by a computer, because the first one is far superior, and if we are still lauding poets who write cheesy cliches about trees and white sails and leaves and angels, then poetry is in even more trouble than I thought. But I fear that it's the opposite. I hope I'm wrong...

SindrePB said...

It's the second one, I'm sure of it. Computers aren't that creative, and the second one is more poemy.

SuperComputerOfDoom said...

The first one is the computer. I know because the computer that wrote it is my brother.

Or sister.

Or whatever.

I'll destroy you all in 2013.

Mike Young said...

A computer wrote the second one. I know the first poem, but the second one gives itself away anyhow, with enough broken syntax and unrelated word jams to reveal computerifficness. Or maybe it's just langpo.

birdmonster said...

I was informed that the word verification thing was haywire so I done turned it off. Here comes the SPAM! HOORAY! PENIS ENLARGEMENTS FOR EVERYONE!

Peter V said...

I have to remove myself from the vote because I recognize the human poet's work.

As an aside, I wouldn't worry too much about it: a) the scope is very limited in a way that heavily favors the computer, and b) in a very real sense, the computer isn't creating anything. The developer who wrote the program is the "real" author, he's just using a very odd technique.

Now if you wanted to run a true "Turing Test", you would need to be able to surprise the computer, force it to operate with very broad (or no) boundary conditions. I'm willing to bet there aren't any programs that could say, "Ask me to write five original poems about any one topic, in any form you choose."

Or rather, there aren't any programs that can do it.... Yet...

Sabrina said...

My vote is #1 written by the human, I agree that #2 is a bit poemy.
This is a bit concerning though, computers writing poems? What is the purpose?
Is this so guys can pretend they're poets? when all they did was have the computer conjure one up with the click of a mouse? This would be a simple print and paste job to any card?
Sappy Women Beware!

I hate all those damn penis enlargement emails! I also keep getting all those Viagra ads in about sz 70 font. I guess if you need viagra you also have trouble seeing? Things stop working for a reason gentlemen!

My word ver is off too and I didn't do anything?

kasi said...

It saddens me that I will have to wait until tomorrow to read the rest of the comments and find out the answer...although I am confident in my answer of #2 by the PC.

birdmonster said...

Pete: Of course, you're right. I think the program he used was fed a few select poets and somehow was able to emulate their style---but thematically, it couldn't say anything; the machine could only mimic wordplay, syntax, etc. That said, still pretty interesting. Especially if you're bored.

The rest of you: Yes, you'll be waiting till tomorrow. We've got to give everyone a chance. I think there are a few folks from the UK who visit too and I have little to no idea what time it is there.

Sabrina said...

You should create a personal world clock. Since I communicate with so many other countries for work I have one.
http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/personal.html
you just need to set it to UK etc.

Sabrina said...

oh, it says it's approx 9:36 pm or 8 hours ahead of SF time

birdmonster said...

Thanks Sabrina---and you didn't break the Word Verification. I just turned it off so people could guess. Blogger's been fritzy today.

Nigel the Nigel said...

"Poetputer" is the first one. Great blog!

Sabrina said...

oh so you are the Master

Gasoline Hobo said...

i know the answer. but that's because i cheated. until they invent robots that understand deceit, i think humans will prevail.

but just to be on the safe side, i'll bring the twinkies. and the michael bolton albums. because adversity makes us stronger.

birdmonster said...

GH: Good point. But once computers can cheat, we'll be dealing with an army of testicle kicking, "what's that over THERE!" yelling, eye-spitters made of...robotstuffs. I don't look forward to that day at all.

derek. said...

i think one is human. i was listening to joy divison while reading this. i think they may have been robits.

oavio wicken said...

I think the first one was written by a computer, but your hideous game reeks of concision and there is really not much of a reference point.

Good thing you are the best bassist ever to live.

Cherry said...

I think that number 2 was written by a computer.

And I liked Sabrina's idea about a computer program that helps guys write sappy poems. All that they would have to do is type in key words and the computer does the rest, like:

Boobs = soulful eyes
Sex = bond of joy
I dig you = You are my universe.

Katie said...

Poet or computer -- does it matter? Poetry is like.......I'm too much of a pussy to just say I love you so I'm going to encrypt it in these words and hope you understand. It's complication. It's making things more difficult than they have to be. I'm too lazy to enjoy (re: decode) poetry in the same way that I am too lazy to do a sudoku puzzle; why bother?

I thought of your musical oddessy today while I was at work. I never had consciously thought about all the music before. The minute we picked up the children in the school yard, 2 of them were singing variations of Jingle Bells. This continued throughout the day with different children and I realized that I had never once heard a child sing the real words. I heard the "Batman smells" version several times and so it felt like that was actually the original to these kids. My favorite version was the one that went "jingle bells, poopy smells, poopy poop poop poop...." (The rest of the words were also poop.) These kids were laughing so hard at themselves that they were nearly crying. Seriously; I can't think of the last time poop was so awesome.