Writers who can develop computer software have tried creating applications that can write long form texts for years. Automatic and almost automatic tools that can write simple news reports and structure scientific papers already exist and are used for real work. Fiction author Robin Sloan has developed a clever algorithm that feeds him with new text when he wants ideas.
The New York Times reporter visited Robin Sloan who demonstrated his artificial intelligence application. The New York Times reporter saw some interesting things on the author’s computer screen.
This is a way for a computer to write 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 (more information about the AI and ML definitions in this Forbes article). The way Sloan’s application works is as follows: it looks at a few typed sentences before the app was invoked, searches its curated database for matching phrases, and proposes a few words that fit into the context.
Robin Sloan thinks of his application as a collaborator that makes his work harder in the end. It helps him get different (hopefully better) results than he alone could have achieved. Sloan has made his software available for other tinkerers to try out. The software package consists of two components: torch-rnn-server and rnn-writer modules.
Artificial intelligence software applications can help a writer, even though an app is not going to write fiction books in the near future. But can AI help nonfiction writers?
Nonfiction writers can benefit from artificial intelligence
South China Morning Post has discovered that the AI research group of Alibaba, a sort of China’s Amazon, has developed a machine-learning software that produces better results than humans. The software was tested with the Stanford Question Answering Dataset, where it scored better in the large-scale reading comprehension test than humans. Alibaba’s machine-learning software scored 82.44 in the test, whereas humans achieved 82.30.
The chief scientist of the software believes computers can now answer questions such as “what causes rain?” with a high level of accuracy. “We believe the technology can be used in many applications, such as customer service, museum tutorials, and patient inquiries online.”
In any case, the Alibaba scientist reminded that the algorithm currently works reliably with questions that have simple answers. If the question’s language is vague, or the grammar is incorrect, or a prepared answer is missing, the software may not be able to answer correctly.
Alibaba’s software technology could be a valuable assistant for nonfiction writers, editors, and fact-checkers. All those small and big facts and details that simply have to be correct in a book could be automatically verified by a piece of software.