Tag Archives: bot

Artificial intelligence computer software is already helping authors write fiction books

2018-10-22

Writers who know how to create computer software have tried to develop applications that can write for years. Earlier, we reported about automatic and semi-automatic tools that can write simple news reports and structure scientific papers. Now, fiction author Robin Sloan has developed a smart and simple tool that feeds him text when he wants ideas.
two computer monitors chatting
The New York Times visited Robin Sloan who demonstrated his idea generator-application to the reporter. This is what The Times reporter saw on the author’s computer screen.

Here is how a computer writes fiction

Mr Sloan typed in his tool: The bison have been traveling for two years back and forth. He stopped and pushed a button on the keyboard. The computer thought for a second and printed on the screen: between the main range of the city.
Another sample: The bison are gathered around the canyon. Sloan typed, and pushed a button that woke up the helper application. After a brief moment, the computer added the words by the bare sky to the screen.

The definition of artificial intelligence (AI) is broad and flexible, but Mr Sloan’s writing assistant software could be called machine learning or even a bot (for more about the AI and ML definitions, read this). The application looks at a few sentences that have been typed before the magic button was pushed, searches its database for matching phrases and suggests a few words that might fit into the context.
Robin Sloan writing tool, screen shot
Robin Sloan's software
Robin Sloan himself regards his application as a collaborator that makes his work actually harder and helps him produce different results than he alone might have been able to achieve. Sloan has made his software available (consisting of two components: torch-rnn-server and rnn-writer) for other tinkerers to try out.

So, artificial intelligence software applications are not going to write fiction books in the near future. But what about nonfiction?

Nonfiction writers may get help from AI as well

South China Morning Post reports about the AI research group of Alibaba, China’s biggest online commerce company, which has developed a machine-learning software that beats humans. It was tested with the Stanford Question Answering Dataset, and scored higher in the large-scale reading comprehension test than humans. Alibaba’s machine-learning software scored 82.44 on the test, compared with 82.30 that humans achieved.

The chief scientist behind the software believes that computers can now answer questions such as “what causes rain?” with a high level of accuracy. “We believe the technology can be applied to numerous applications such as customer service, museum tutorials, and patient inquiries online.”

Nonetheless, the Alibaba scientist reminded that the system currently works reliably with questions that have straightforward answers. If the question’s language or expressions are vague or the grammar is incorrect, or a prepared answer is missing, the software may not be able to answer correctly.

A software technology that Alibaba’s research has developed would be a great help for nonfiction writers, editors, and fact-checkers. All those small (and big) facts and details that just have to be correct in a commercial book could be verified by a piece of software.

Having access to this technology might shorten the time to write a nonfiction book.
Alibaba screen shot

Smart computer applications automatically write news, scientific papers and even Harry Potter sequels

2017-12-13

Long before the term artificial intelligence (AI) was invented, clever computer programmers tried various methods to automatically produce texts for different purposes. Early attempts have been unsuccessful, but now, technology has developed so much that serious attempts for automating the writing of news reports and scientific papers are underway. What does it mean for authors?

keyboard on fire
Computer-generated brief news reports are perhaps more widely used than we are aware. For instance, The Washington Post newspaper is using a news robot called the Heliograf.

The robot working for the newspaper is not fully autonomous, but writes reports in cooperation with news editors. The editors have created templates for political news stories that feature key phrases for particular events, like elections. Heliograf is connected to a source of structured data where it can access the required data for reporting. The robot searches the database, matches the discovered relevant data with the corresponding phrases in the template, and inserts the data into the template for publishing a news report.

It is not a coincidence that the Heliograf robot was developed and taken into use after Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, took over the newspaper. With the help of the robot, The Washington Post wants to publish more news stories that can reach small local audiences that previously were out-of-reach for a major newspaper.

SciNote, an enterprise that provides scientists cloud services where they can store all their notes, papers, references, ideas – anything that has to do with their research has also chosen the human-robot collaboration method for its automatic writing application. Slate talked to the people behind the Scinote’s software technology and found out that already 20 000 scientists use the company’s cloud service.

Manuscript Writer is Scinote’s automatic tool for drafting a scientific paper from pieces of data. The data must be structured and organized by the researcher for the Manuscript Writer to be able to do its job, but that’s exactly what Scinote’s cloud service enforces researchers to do. The result from the Manuscript Writer is a draft paper for further work, review and editing.

A community known as Botnik has developed a writing application that can automatically continue your work once you feed the robot enough source material for analysis. That’s how Botnik has written a sequel for Harry Potter, TV show manuscripts, advertisements, and other texts. Below a page from Botnik’s Potter adaptation (photo by Botnik.org).
Botnik bot writer, Harry Potter variation, photo by Botnik.org

Most writers (and all internet users) use artificial intelligence applications daily without paying any attention to them. A search engine is a very clever piece of technology that constantly learns more about you and what you want in order to return better search results. Facebook and other social media services constantly follow and listen to you in order to tailor their newsfeeds and ads to match your desires.

The software algorithms used in writing robots and in social media services know what to do because they have enough data to start their work, and when they are fed with more data, they can improve the results.

Can a robot write books like The Lord of the Rings, Catch 22 or The Innovator’s Dilemma? No. At the moment, a robot can write something where the results are known in advance (a fixed number of possible outcomes), and the robot fills in the key data; a robot organizes a large set of data into a document; or produces variations derived from an existing source text.