Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Robot Soup - by RM Greenaway


Scientists have invented a robot that can do your writing for you. You give it the basic plot and characters and it does the rest. Would you use it? Why or why not?"



My first impulse was to answer "of course". Think of all the free time I would have to paint my toenails, re-organize my recycle bins and all the other things I'm neglecting.



But then I thought twice. Wouldn't that make me obsolete? I was at the supermarket the other day, and thought I'd try the automated checkout. Didn't know how, so a kind employee walked me through the process. All I could do is stare at her and wonder, aren't you afraid? Aren't you very afraid of losing your job? Maybe she was mid-management, I don't know.



Photo by Siyan Ren (Umsplash)
Anyway, I think not. I don't want to use the auto checkouts, and I don't want a robot to write my books either.



I also urge others to not encourage the robots. Give them an inch, they'll take a mile.



But you know what? When it comes to writing novels, let them. They'll do their zillion-byte per second market research and algorithms and whatever, and they'll zero in on exactly what's hot and what's not, but there will be a fatal flaw to their scheme. There always is.



I'm thinking the fatal flaw will be word count. Robots are very anal, and if algorithms say the optimum crime novel has 98,725 words, that's where they'll stop. Mid-sentence or cutting off a good joke or screwing up the denouement, or whatever, they'll just stop.



Thus, in the end, readers will come back to human writing. We know when to type the end.




7 comments:

Paul D. Marks said...

Fun piece, RM. All good points, but I especially like this one: "We know when to type the end." ###

colleen said...

I love "We know when to type the end". too. I think we have to stop thinking of robots as servants, because, you know, they will be able to lead, as well.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Better to have the robots fetch the coffee and make sandwiches while we do the typing.

RJ Harlick said...

Precisely. Great post, RM

Dara Carr said...

Great post! Sure enough, AI is already being applied to novel writing

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2017/10/27/an_ai_bot_is_very_good_at_writing_horror.html

I wish I were better at knowing when to type "the end"!

RM Greenaway said...

Thank you all for your kind comments, and for the link, Dara ... I think I don't have the nerve to look just now -- its getting a bit too close for comfort.
The end is always an interesting point, isn't it? Sometimes not where you expected it to be, kind of like the beginning.

Susan C Shea said...

Quite a scenario! But just as technology has sucked up many jobs, killed off entire industries, gutted cities, and eviscerated research librarians' reasons for living, I wouldn't be surprised if AI didn't some day make us - like chess champions - peripheral to daily life. But, daily life will be pretty awful by then and I won't be around to remember the good old days of Agatha Christie, Sara Paretsky and RM Greenaway.