Computer Generated Creativity

by Mike Shea on 3 September 2012

A friend of mine recently asked me what I thought about sending machines to Mars instead of human beings. I replied that the conservative in me is fine sending machines because its so much cheaper. The futurist in me agrees, however, because machines are the future humanity anyway so they might as well be the first Earth-based race on Mars.

Technological change continues to crush established businesses like a silvery monster truck smashing over a stack of old station wagons. Music stores, book store, now just about every retail store seems to struggle to stay relevant when, ten years ago, they sat on top of the world.

Wired recently had an article entitled Can an Algorithm Write a Better News Story Than a Human Reporter?. We shouldn't be too surprised at these sorts of turns of events. For all I know, 50 Shades of Gray was written by a computer algorithm. After all, it's been six years since online sex chat bots passed the turning test. It's just a matter of time until we start seeing Amazon flooded with books written by computers. It won't surprise me at all when a computer-generated book becomes a best seller. Amazon won't only handle distribution, but likely the processing power used in its creation as well.

It sounds horrible for writers but it doesn't really matter. The percentage of writers able to live off of their money seems to get smaller, even though writers can now get a far greater cut. It's a problem of increased supply. With so many words available on the net, they just aren't in great demand.

Here's what Seth Godin had to say about it:

Who said you have a right to cash money from writing? Poets don't get paid (often), but there's no poetry shortage. The future is going to be filled with amateurs, and the truly talented and persistent will make a great living. But the days of journeyman writers who make a good living by the word -- over.

Four years ago, a guy built an algorithm to write books, increasing supply in parallel to processing power. Here's his Amazon site.

Algorithmically generated books are just the beginning. Music, movies, TV shows; it won't be long until algorithms can generate just about any of them and do it better than anyone else. Some day soon you might have your own personal channel of content with articles and TV shows built just for you based on your tastes and desires. It will hit all the right buttons and it will be relatively cheap to do so.

One day, not too far off, we'll simply sit in gray cubicles filled every eight hours with a nutritious sludge as we sit back and watch an infinite number of episodes of Friends, auto-generated for our individual tastes and enjoyment.

Of course, I'm not sure how we'll pay for it. All the jobs are gone.

It won't be long until computers know how to generate enjoyable content. All that's left is a computer able to enjoy it.

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