Note: This article has been moved over from my previous blog for historical purposes
The New York Times recently published a news item (The Muse Is in the Software, 24th Nov 2003) that talks about a certain inventor in the field of Artificial Intelligence - Ray Kurzweil and John Keklak received patent No. 6,647,395 covering what its inventors call Cybernetic poetry !!
The software , they say, creates poetry by imitating but not plagiarizing the styles and vocabularies of human poets. All though other other poetry generating softwares exist, Kurzweil's invention, he claims are based on pattern recognition. The real power of human thinking is based on recognizing patterns. How true !
The article got me thinking. I sort of got down to comparing myself with the program. No ! I am not a poet (not even close to being one). But almost everything or a large part of what i remember sounds a lot like pattern recognition. I get this new peice of work. The first thing my mind thinks is "Does this look like anything else i have done ?". When the answers no, then i get down to trying out alternatives that worked for almost similar work until the correct solution is found.
But what about creative arts ? Isnt poetry supposed to be a creative art ? Well yes, but styles arent. We have already classified all known creative arts into categories (modern art, pop music, thai food, husky voice - hey thats all pattern recognition right ?) I think we all learn or start learning by imitating accepted great works - we call it practice. As a matter of some people make a living out of it right ?
All the same, the step that cybernetics has taken seems to be the tiny first in the direction where we might actually have self-conscious machines (Kurzweil envisions a world in the near future where computers superannuate humans - they compose music and poetry, have sex with each other, and achieve a humanlike consciousness). And why not ? But then a question arises - will that make us redundant ? After all we've all seen terminator - right ? ;) I may be out of my depth, but personally i think its our fear of the unknown that forces us to think in that direction. On a positive note, if softwares can write poems today, perhaps the next stop would be speeding up the work on developing a permanent cure for AIDs accounting for all the possibilities. While we are dreaming, i could dare pick up a concept from a science fiction movie i once saw (Star Trek - was it ?) which has a probe left out into space charting space - sending back data and actually pursuing interesting paths itself ! Thats one frontier where the machine intelligence could prove limitless because of absence of the concept of being tired or thinking of something else.
Another interesting concepts that Kurzweil advocates is what he calls lucid dreaming - harnessing the unconscious to work on problems while sleeping. He says that, when going to sleep, he assigns himself a problem without trying to solve it. During waking moments and slumber, he revisits the problem. "It is a great time for creative thinking," he says. "You can think of new connections, new approaches that you wouldn't otherwise think of."
Maybe its my imagination, but i, myself and several other i know of, have experienced ocassional flashes of answers in our sleep !! Could this be similiar to the operating system concept of letting the problem run in the background ? Maybe - maybe not ! Just a guess. But i believe with conscious effort this sounds possible. I have heard we dont use a large part of our brain. What appeals me as revolutionary concept is that facvt that this approach actually attempts to utililize the untapped potential rather than trying to find something (perhaps a machine) to do it. And in certain cases like personal decisions, thats simply not possible !! Perhaps thats how the cliche "Let me sleep over it" came into existence !
The poetry making software can be downloaded free from www.kurzweilcyberart.com, the deluxe version is charged for though. I believe they have also come up with a screen saver version of AI program, AARON, that develops original paintings on your desktop.