Blackout Poetry, Writing

Can Computers Write Poetry? And Is Computer Programming Poetry?

I was recently watching this Ted Talk about this computer program that could write poetry.

In the video, this computer programmer, Oscar Schwartz, programmed a computer to write poetry! (He also used other algorithms created by other people to obtain more samples of computer-generated poems.)

[pullquote]With a dictionary database, a decent relational algorithm, and a simple spinner, a computer can create poems. However, the question remains—will a computer-generated poem have meaning or creativity in it?[/pullquote]After the computer wrote a few poems, Schwartz showed a few people the poems and asked them what they thought of them (without telling them that the poems were written by a computer). The people he showed the poems to loved them! This made me think of a study that was done where several “wine connoisseurs,” were given cheap wine (but in an expensive bottle! all the “wine connoisseurs” praised the cheap wine, and several even preferred it over the real expensive wine. It would’ve been great if Schwartz had actually submitted the poems to magazines across the country—maybe even given the computer a pseudonym!

Anyway, in the video, Schwartz shows the audience several poems and asks them to guess which poem was written by a human.

The whole purpose of the experiment, and talk, seemed to be more about the artificial intelligence (AI) side of things—and whether or not computers could actually express themselves through poetry. What do you think? Can they?

Yes, I do believe computers can create poetry. The only issue here is how great computer-generated poems will be. Will the poems be meaningful? Will they sound like they were created by humans?

As fascinating as Schwartz’s talk was, I did have a little problem with the presentation. You see, in the video, it was easy to fool the audience. With how poems are structured, the layman cannot fathom which one is written by a person, and which one isn’t. Poems are often cryptic and can be ten layers deep. It is common that too much application of creativity and wordplay in the poem can make it even incomprehensible to us regular folks—IE: those of us without MFA’s in poetry.

Most people are only familiar with kindergarten and elementary poems. After all, they were taught in schools and are much more memorable. Unlike poems written by poets, popular or not, children’s poems are much easier to understand. They follow a basic pattern, and convey their meanings directly.

For example, children and popular poems often follow a basic structure combined with rhyming ending words.

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Sugar is sweet,

And so are you.

Here is an example that was used in the presentation:

Red flags the reason for pretty flags

And ribbons.

Ribbon of flags

And wearing material

Reason for wearing material.

Give pleasure.

Can you give me the regions.

The region and the land.

The regions and wheels.

All wheels are perfect.


That poem was written by Gertrude Stein, a famed American poet and novelist. Truth be told, this poem sounds like gibberish of a drunken Irishman. Unless you try hard to analyze it, you will certainly feel that it does not make sense.

If you compare the two poems, the first one can be easily read and understood. Truth be told, with simple lexical functions written in a computer program, it is easy to create poems like the previous example. Unfortunately, simple word randomizers can easily create gibberish— combinations of words that can easily appear like the latter example.

[pullquote]Poetry is a creation of art, and a computer program that writes poetry is definitely a beautiful creation of art.[/pullquote]With that said, it is easy to fool humans, especially those of us who are not adept with poem readings. Due to that, the tests done in the presentation were not that reliable. To my dismay, I was unsatisfied.

With a dictionary database, a decent relational algorithm, and a simple spinner, a computer can create poems. However, the question remains—will a computer-generated poem have meaning or creativity in it? As a matter of fact, I believe not— not in this lifetime.

However, we can be fooled. After all, poetry is art. And as usual, all works of art are open to multiple interpretations. A computer can generate text that can look like a poem. Once humans interpret it as a poem and we extract a particular meaning out of it, then it will become a real poem. Nevertheless, that poem will be devoid of emotions and insight of a real human being.

Unless humans can develop fully functional artificial intelligence (AIs) that can feel emotions and experience life, these poem-generating programs will be incapable of creating poems like humans do. An AI must be capable of rewriting itself and mutating to a point that it will completely deviate from what was written in its source code.

That program must write itself a poem not because it was programmed to do it, but it must be because it wanted to create one itself. It must be capable of desiring to express its emotions, whether it is digital. But if the program cannot do that, it can only create imitations of poems — a block of text that looks and sounds like a poem, and not a poem written by a human with a soul and emotions.

However, in my opinion, I still do believe that the computer wrote a poem, but I believe the computer’s poem was just part of a much larger poem—the poem/art that the programmer created when he first wrote the computer’s program to write poems. Poetry is a creation of art, and a computer program that writes poetry is definitely a beautiful creation of art.

Best Of, Politics / News, Politics / News

Current World Events Illustrate Advantages And Disadvantages Of Online Media

The advantages and disadvantages of online media have been prominent in recent weeks. Today’s media is challenged with delivery of news events in split second time. With social media networks as FaceBook and Twitter, we have seen in the last two months, the revolution in Tunisia that resulted with the entire government being dismantled to the recent events in Egypt’s political unrest and revolution of the people.

In the history of the United States, we are witnessing world events change and have the opportunity to see the changes in almost real time. Tunisia’s revolution began by a citizen frustrated by social poverty and repression that used self-immolation. Witnessing that videotaped event on-line sparked the unrest across the Middle East.

One can look at these events as an advantage as it brings to light that people around the world are not afforded the democracies and social services as we do. If you’re a dictator like Mubarak, they are a negative impact, which is why he ordered Internet Services Providers to shut down. We witness history as Egypt’s communications services were erased except for the use of other venues of technology that utilized Twitter and Facebook.

United States news media is in a constant quest to break news. With the decline of hard cover papers and the publishing industry moving into the digital age, the speed you can report the news it is a very competitive business. We have become a population of news on demand. We want it now, and we want it fast. We even pay on-line subscriptions if our favorite news websites are not free.

Instant gratification becomes a disadvantage. We become addicted to the technology but part of the problem is the feeling of power we can achieve as we can pick and choose our favorite media and stay wired by Internet or smart phones. Information truly is power. News media pushes the content so fast to websites, many times fact checking is poor resulting in incorrect news. Some news media because of the freedom of speech can slander especially during a political campaign season.

Today’s online media presents law enforcement challenges as criminal activity escalates. Chat rooms are full of frauds that pose as nice people targeting young children or desperate people for crimes. Pornography is a whole entire industry that gains great momentum as well as gambling sites which attract those too weak to resist because of criminal minds, or those suffering from complex and serious addictions. Dating sites or classified as Craig’s List have led to murders.

On-line media provides avenues for education and long distance learning saving gas mileage and parking. Now you can acquire a degree at your own pace. Downloading e-books and articles gives us all the ability to avoid trips to the library. Those cramming nights for exams give us information at our fingertips.

When the First Amendment governing free speech was made law in 1791, which would have ever known that this protection to the people and ability to speak freely held the future of being delivered in seconds?

The advantages and disadvantages of online media really cannot be measured. Life is fast and our decisions create consequences. The ability to have encyclopedia’s, books, newspapers, medical advice, and a host of other genres at our fingertips helps advance our civilization. It is what we choose and how we handle the media that makes the difference. People will communicate and it is a way of life in the digital age.

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