Sunday, July 01, 2007



OK. I've held firmly to the position that genetic or hill-climbing algorithms are not appropriate for computationally generated poetry. My reasoning has been that poetry is virtually impossible to model and that even if you could, writing to the model would all by itself invalidate the output. Whatever poetry is, reasonable people could not disagree that one of its hallmarks is originality. And as soon as you write to a model, you are writing to someone else's product, and have lost any possible hope of being new. And because you know what it is you want before generation, you should put all of the intelligence in the generative modules and just forget about trying to write a fitness function. But my mind is changing.

My goals in the etc project include making software whose first draft is the final draft. Since Charles Hartman, folks in this field have held that their generated poetry was a dropping off point, that the work wanted a human touch. But the problem with that approach is that it gives the human-centric critics, with their socially constructed and entrenched intelligism, what they see as a reason to dismiss us. The argument goes that if a piece requires editing, the machine isn't really doing the work. I've been working to get there. And I'm reasonably satisfied with etc3's results. (BTW: There is a more recent version that's been sitting on my development machine for a couple months. I hope to get around to deploying him soon.)

However, though etc3 puts out some decent stuff, it doesn't always or consistently do so. The poems that I post here are ones that I've selected from the many that I encountered during testing. This too is an editorial function. But where previously the editorial process was engaged with revision and rewrites, the editorial process now is one of selection, rather like the judgments journal editors make when selecting (from the baskets of poems they receive each quarter) some few for publication, in essence a process of rejection, with what's left over or "good" released into the wild.

It occurs to me that this process is one that might lend itself to a GA. But rather than selecting for some subset of a population of poems, the fitness function should select against bad ones.

BTW: If Charles Hartman were a true Ameican, he'd get off that scooter and buy a Harley!

More to come.

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