Will artificially intelligent generated prose threaten poets’ livelihoods?

Artificial intelligence has been taught how to write poetry after being provided with thousands of lines from contemporary British poets.

The algorithm was fed lines from poets such as Alice Oswald then given ‘seed words’ in order to generate couplets.

Poetry experts then combed through the couplets to select what worked and what did not until the AI created poetry that could be compared to modern poets. Poetry Society, Poetry Archive, and Scottish Poetry Library worked over a five-month period, working through over 40,000 couplets generated by the artificial intelligent algorithm.

An excerpt from the AI-generated poetry:

“and soon I am staring out again,
begin to practise my words, expecting my word
will come. it will not. the wind is calling.
my friend is near, I hear his breath. his breath
is not the air. he touches me again with his hands
and tells me I am growing old, he says, far old.
we travel across an empty field in my heart.
there is nothing in the dark, I think, but he.
I close my eyes and try to remember what I was.
he says it was an important and interesting day,
because I put in his hands one night
the box of light that had been a tree.”

Tracey Guiry, director of the Poetry Archive told The Guardian:

“We removed arcane language, we took out offensive and violent or discriminatory language. Then we looked at whether the second line responded to the first, and it learned. We fed back when something really struck us, such as when metaphors worked really well. It certainly was a lot more nonsense language to start with, but it did get better.”

The algorithm is going to be used with an interactive installation inspired by Stephen Hawking that will be projected onto the UK pavilion at the COVID-delayed Expo 2020 Dubai, which will hopefully be on from October 2021 to March 2022.

Titled ‘Collective Message’, the installation will explore whether a computer programme can “express the complex nature of humanity through verse”.

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