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AI is better at writing poems than you’d expect. But that’s fine.

washingtonpost.com – Tuesday February 14, 2023

In 1950, computer scientist Alan Turing famously proposed what we now call the Turing test of artificial intelligence, which says that a machine might be “thinking” if it can pass as human in a typewritten chat. Even if you’re familiar with this story, you might not know that Turing imagined starting his test with a literary request: “Please write me a sonnet on the subject of the Forth Bridge.” He predicted an evasive but very human response from some future computer: “Count me out on this one. I never could write poetry.” That’s just what my dad would say.

Last week, I sent the same request to ChatGPT, the latest artificial-intelligence chatbot from OpenAI. “Upon the Firth of Forth, a bridge doth stand,” it began. In less than a minute, the program had created in full a rhyming Shakespearean sonnet. With the exception of offensive or controversial topics that its content filters block, ChatGPT will compose original verse on any theme: lost love, lost socks, jobs lost to automation. Tools like ChatGPT seem poised to change the world of poetry — and so much else — but poets also have a lot to teach us about artificial intelligence. If algorithms are getting good at writing poetry, it’s partially because poetry was always an algorithmic business.

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