While surfing around the internet recently I came across this article talking about how Google engineers have been feeding their Artificial Intelligence (AI) engine romance novels in an effort to improve its conversational skills.
I have to admit I was intrigued, though I could have done without the references to “bodice-ripping romance novels” and comments like “the plots are all essentially the same, the story is just being told with new words each time” that appeared in a majority of the reporting on the subject.
Anyway, engineers fed Google’s AI engine over 2,500 romance novels and then tasked the engine with writing sentences of its own, based on what it had learned. The goal of the exercise was for the AI engine to learn how to craft sentences that were conversational and included nuances of tone and style not normally associated with computer-generated language.
“While children’s books might seem like a natural choice to teach AI systems how to improve their ability to work with human languages, Freidenfelds noted that romance novels are better. They tend to follow similar plot lines and themes, but use a wide range of vocabulary to express those ideas.” ~ The Verge article
Unfortunately, none of the articles I found on this project provided any writing samples from the AI robot, so I’m going to take the claim by the Google software engineer that the “at this point it could theoretically pick up a pen and start writing erotica on its own” with a grain of salt.
The concept of learning language through reading is nothing new. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, for example, the Creature used books to learn about life when he was off living alone in the forest.
Instead of erotic romance novels, he turned to slightly drier, more classical works like Volney’s Ruins of Empires, Milton’s Paradise Lost, a volume of Plutarch’s Lives, and Goethe’s The Sorrows of Werter. His choice of reading materials differed a bit from Google’s AI engine’s reading list, but the end result included a similarly increased ability to understand language and compose sentences and thoughts
“I can hardly describe to you the effect of these books. They produced in me an infinity of new images and feelings . . .” ~ The Creature, Frankenstein
So, if you had an AI Robot, or a Creature, or encountered someone from another planet (hey, it could happen), what books would you give them to learn about mankind / human interactions? My list would definitely include a romance novel or two, in the mix.