Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Robots Writing Poetry?

I sit here on a Tuesday evening waiting for the election results, wondering if the Trump-Train gets derailed, or if we continue our slouch towards Gomorrah. Will Hillary's joyless forced march to the nomination continue, or will the old man steal one in Michigan?

While I wait, I'll share with you all an extrordinarily depressing text conversation I had with my son this afternoon. In the course of an otherwise harmless exchange, he informed me that there now exist robots who have been programmed to write music for the purposes of background music for commercials, movies etc. and apparently, they aren't half bad! Oh, and software exists that can extend the Bot-music for as long as the sequence demands. In other words, human musicians need not apply.

Since nobody on earth could accuse me of keeping up with technology, I was flabbergasted that such a thing was possible. Aghast, I shot back:

"What!? I wonder when we will see our first robot-written novel?? Or poetry???"

To which, without so much as a moment's hesitation, he delivered the news that it's already happened on the poetry side. He then provided me a link where I could go and read a collection of poetry and try and decide whether a poem was written by a human or a robot! I informed him that if I lived to be a hundred years old, I would never visit such a website!! 

Our conversation ended on a happier note, but it stills haunts me. Robots writing novels? Bot-music?? I'm sorry, art simply isn't art unless it proceeds from the imagination of human being. Art can't be produced by soulless things. Otherwise, it's just a commodity, a mass-produced blob of a thing that is spit out of a giant, faceless machine! The very idea that a programmed device is thought  capable of the creative impulse neccesary to conceive and then construct art is...is...I don't know what it is. But I'm pretty sure it's despicable!

All of my life I've been told by all the smart people how the technological revolution was great news for the human race. Indeed, I enjoy it's fruit every single day, and am right this minute, writing this blog on my iPad. But when I see the rise of drones and the rapidly advancing army of robots out there...yes, making our work easier, but also making us easier to do without, I'm starting to fear this brave new world. I'm no Luddite, just a little concerned about just where we human beings fit into the plans of the geniuses in Silicon Valley. Will my as yet unborn grandchildren have enough skill to do anything better and cheaper than the machines that will be coming online 20 years from now? If not, what on earth will they do with themselves?