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Literature Updated: 06 Nov 2018

Artificial intelligence has made its way to literature

Machines started by offering us recommendations on what to read, and now they’re capable of writing poetry, stories and even screenplays. Computers have gone from tools to help human creators to becoming creative entities themselves, explains Ramón López de Mántaras in the book “The Next Step: Exponential Life”, which can be downloaded at no charge on BBVA OpenMind’s website.


A recent survey conducted by the Future of Life Institute’s AI Impacts project predicts that artificial intelligence will be capable of writing a best seller by 2050. But there’s no need to wait that long to read literature written by software.

Google has been working with Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts to improve machines’ natural language. To do so, researchers have introduced artificial intelligence to more than 11,000 novels. The first step was for the software to understand the variances of human language. Once this goal was achieved, they gave it two sentences – a starting sentence and a closing sentence – from which the machine wrote several poems, as they explain in their report.

A robot’s creation reaches bookstores

The Chinese publishing company Cheers Publishing has gone a step farther, offering the collection of poetry “Sunshine Misses Windows”, signed by the previously unknown author Microsoft Little Ice, for sale in bookstores. This algorithm created by the computer giant memorized more than 500 sonnets, from which it created 10,000 poems. Of these, 139 were published. Some of the poems have been shared on social networks under different pseudonyms. Very few Internet users were able to identify the nature of the author of poems such as the one below:

“The rain is blowing through the sea

A bird in the sky

A night of light and calm


Now in the sky

Cool heart

The savage north wind

When I found a new world…”

WASP is an artificial intelligence software that was created by Pablos Gervás, who holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Complutense University of Madrid.  This researcher has spent 17 years perfecting his robot poet. WASP has learned to write, inspired by sonnets from Spain’s Golden Age. His creator says that the purpose of his research is to understand the structure of poetry and study the creative process, to make writers’ work easier. They are not trying to replace poets, as their writing lacks emotion.

Robots’ rap

Poetry is not the only field where artificial intelligence dominates. Several researchers from Aalto University in Finland have created DeepBeat, software that is capable of writing rap lyrics. This program uses machine learning techniques to create lyrics to songs by combining lines from other songs that already exist, as well as different types of beats. On the project’s website, users can suggest a word or beat from which to create a song.

DopeLearning: A Computational Approach to Rap Lyrics Generation

In Japan, computers are already participating in literary competitions. The Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award allows non-human authors to present their work without the judges knowing the nature of the competitors. Of the 1,450 applications they received in the last edition, 11 were partially written by a machine. One of them, “The Day a Computer Writes a Novel” made it past the first round of the contest.

I writhed with joy, which I experienced for the first time, and kept writing with excitement. The day a computer wrote a novel. The computer, placing priority on the pursuit of its own joy, stopped working for humans.”

The judges of the competition say that even though they are incredibly well structured, novels of this kind are still really lacking when it comes to describing the psychology of the characters.

A machine screenwriter named Benjamin

Artificial intelligence has already made it to the world of movies, and not just as part of the plot. Scientist Ross Goodwin and his team have created a Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) which renamed itself Benjamin. The first screenwriting software has already released its first debut film, a short film called Sunspring, directed by the filmmaker Oscar Sharp

Sunspring, a Sci-Fi Short Film

In the words of Sharp, the result of this experiment has been “a combination of the delusions of a madman and a poetic absurdity that is strangely appealing.” Sunspring uses disconnected phrases and its characters answer to the names of H, H2 and C. However, its creators decided to present it at Sci-Fi London, where it was selected as one of the 10 best short films.

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