... ah, but can it write CRITICISM?
Computer Program Writes Its Own FictionJennifer Viegas, Discovery News
Jan. 26, 2007 Could a computer one day be a fiction bestseller? While a computer-written bestseller may be unlikely, a technology expert has created a computer program that writes its own fiction stories with minimal user input.
The program, called MEXICA, is the first to generate original stories based on computerized representations of emotions and tensions between characters.
Rafael Pérez y Pérez, MEXICAs creator, explains, "The program keeps a record of the emotional links between characters while developing a story, and employs its knowledge about emotions to retrieve from memory possible logical actions to continue the story."
A paper describing the program has been accepted for publication in the journal Cognitive Systems Research.
In an Internet survey that pitted the computer-generated stories against other computerized stories, as well as stories written solely by a human, readers ranked MEXICAs stories highest for flow and coherence, structure, content, suspense and overall quality.
Pérez y Pérez, a computer scientist at the Autonomous Metropolitan University in México City, explained to Discovery News that a story might begin with something as basic as, "The enemy wounded the knight. The princess cured the knight. The knight killed the enemy. The knight rewarded the princess. The end."
The program reads characters as variables and assigns a numerical value, between a continuum of 3 to +3, to emotional connections that are defined as either amorous or non-amorous. The numerical value is equivalent to the degree of emotion, with 3 being intense hate and +3 being intense love.
The program also understands story tension, such as linking the word "wounded" with tension. This too is assigned a numerical value.
Once these clusters of emotional links and tensions are established, the program begins what is called an "engagement-reflection cycle." Basically this involves searching a database of story actions and other happenings, which are called "atoms," and determines the best match for the characters contexts for that moment. The process repeats itself again and again until the system can no longer make any matches.
At this point, the computer analyzes the story for coherence and "interestingness." The program views a story as interesting when tension levels increase and fall throughout the piece. If the program finds that the story is boring or incoherent in places, it will replace or insert atoms until a version is deemed satisfactory.
Mike Sharples, director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Nottingham in England, is the author of the book, "How We Write: Writing as Creative Design." In it he describes a scientific model for creative writing.
Sharples told Discovery News, "Rafael drew on key elements of that model of human creative writing particularly the movement between engagement and reflection to produce a computer program that simulates essential parts of the story writing process to produce interesting and engaging story outlines."
Sharples described the program as "innovative."
Pérez y Pérez hopes that MEXICA and any future related programs will be viewed as tools and not replacements for human writers. He believes the programs may even lead to better quality stories and books.
"Programs like MEXICA are computer models that help us to conceive, and therefore to understand, how we write stories," Pérez y Pérez said. "Thus, we can improve our capacities. In my opinion, that is the goal."
The process repeats itself again and again
Appears to have the requisite expertise...
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