Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sonnets by Robo-Shakespeare

Here's a story that's equal parts "Shakespeare" and "Geek".  An MIT student has written a program that uses nothing but the database of Shakespeare's word choices, and from that created what I'll call a "sonnet helper".  It doesn't write the sonnet for the student, but it does say "Based on what you've got so far, maybe this? Or this?"  The student/author is still composing the sonnet, and the computer is merely guiding the word choices.  Very interesting stuff.

Oh, you want to hear the sonnet?  

When I in dreams behold thy fairest shade
whose shade in dreams doth wake the sleeping morn,
the daytime shadow of my love betrayed
lends hideous night to dreaming's faded form.

We don't get the whole thing, only snippets.  I suppose it's not bad.  What's painful is the idea that poetry could be automatically generated (they actually use the phrased "banged out by the computer") and that then it would be a matter of just crowdsourcing public opinion to determine what constitutes a good poem.  Talk about trivializing it!  That's like making a haiku generator and just counting syllables.  There's a bit more to it than that.

UPDATE : I had no idea that this project was the work of the Swiftkey people, who make the most popular predictive keyboard replacement for Android phones (I use it myself).  Here's a different link that contains the entire text of the sonnet at the end.

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