Emily Cho
Great AI-Merican Novel

An AI Took a Road Trip and Wrote a Terrible Novel About It

byDan Robitzski
10. 2. 18
Emily Cho

If “that guy in your MFA” were a robot.


Have you ever dreamed of leaving it all behind, setting out on that cross-country road trip, and coming back with the manuscript you always swore you’d write? Too late. Now robots are even coming after your great American novel.

A bunch of interconnected neural networks wrote a novel called “1 the Road” during a road trip from Brooklyn to New Orleans. Programmer Ross Goodwin built the system to churn out bursts of prose based on inputs including GPS coordinates, Foursquare data, and a camera with image recognition software.

There’s not much in the way of a story in the novel — though to be fair, that’s seldom stopped mediocre human novelists. And what it lacks in a compelling narrative it makes up for by demonstrating the experimental, artsy potential of AI-generated text.


While The Atlantic compared the AI to Jack Kerouac and guessed at hidden meanings in the text, it’s important to remember that we’re talking about nonsense passages like:


The table is black to be seen, the bus crossed in a corner. A military apple breaks in. Part of a white line of stairs and a street light was standing in the street, and it was a deep parking lot.

If you’re having a hard time gleaning the deep, hidden meaning from that excerpt, it’s likely because there isn’t one.


Goodwin trained his neural nets with databases of poetry and literature. So while “1 the Road” might seem artsy compared to Siri or Alexa, that’s only because the AI that produced it had been forced to read more lyrical, provocative language than a typical chatbot.

And to say that “artificial intelligence wrote a novel” is a bit of a stretch, given than doing so usually involves crafting coherent sentences and stringing thoughts together, all things that artificial intelligence isn’t yet creative enough to do.

A page turner, this is not.


READ MORE: When an AI Goes Full Jack Kerouac [The Atlantic]

More on AI-generated literature: Artificial Intelligence Writes Bad Poems Just Like An Angsty Teen

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