Once is unique. Twice is a trend. Three or more times starts to feel awfully gimmicky.
That’s where we stand with the ever-so-edgy novelists using artificial intelligence to spit out lazy new books. AI isn’t as impressive as you think — at least not yet — so the results of writing with AI are invariably underwhelming.
Get over yourselves, authors!
24-Hour Bot Show
One recent offender: Robin Sloan, author of the acclaimed “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.”
A new story in The New York Times describes Sloan’s work on his follow-up book. Huddled in his “cluttered man-cave of an office,” he punches in a sentence: “The bison are gathered around the canyon.” Then he hits “tab,” spurring software he trained — with classics by John Steinbeck, Joan Didion, and others — to spit out this page-turner: “The bison are gathered around the canyon by the bare sky.”
“That’s kind of fantastic,” Sloan muses to the Times, which seems like a bit much. “Would I have written ‘bare sky’ by myself? Maybe, maybe not.”
And now we’ll never know.
On The Algorithm
Sloan’s new novel will probably be great compared to this word salad, generated by programmer Ross Goodwin. Goodwin hooked up a bunch of neural networks to a GPS, a camera, and other sensors, then took a road trip from Brooklyn to New Orleans.
The result is a bunch of meaningless sentences like this, strung together into an entire book:
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.
Of course, road trip novels are insufferable even when humans write them. To paraphrase Truman Capote’s famous diss of Jack Kerouac: “That’s not writing; that’s just machine learning.”
If you’re tired of actual full-length books, Botnik Studios used a predictive keyboard-style algorithm to churn out a new chapter of “Harry Potter”:
The Castle grounds snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind. The sky outside was a great black ceiling, which was full of blood. The only sounds drifting from Hagrid’s hut were the disdainful shrieks of his own furniture. Magic: it was something that Harry Potter thought was very good.
Heck, it might not be J.K. Rowling, but we have to admit this attempt at writing with AI at least has a certain charm.
READ MORE: Computer Stories: A.I. Is Beginning to Assist Novelists [The New York Times]
More on AI-generated literature: Artificial Intelligence Writes Bad Poems Just Like An Angsty Teen