Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

“The Lex writer has always loved the busy Wall Street.” Thus begins “The Pink Ballpoint,” an auto-generated short story about a fictional Lex writer.

Programmers hope computers will eventually write fiction and play music as skillfully as humans, the second blue-sky idea we explore in today’s thematic column.

If they succeeded, artificial intelligence would have passed a variant of the Turing test, which determines whether a computer can succeed as a human being. It can also be a way to make money. Consumers may be able to pay for stories and tunes tailored to them.

The program written by “The Pink Ballpoint” shows its limitations through unintentional surrealism. As our heroine watches “the snow blowing like a tick rhino”, an FT subscriber approaches her with the curious greeting: “I love you and I want information.”

In contrast, the GPT-3 AI system developed by OpenAI, a San Francisco technology lab, can produce sophisticated text in response to clues from human operators. It can sometimes fool readers to believe that it can be a human.

The program yielded an ingenious Christmas story of its own about this column, only through a Scrooge-like characterization of the section editor and an irrelevant resentment against climate campaigner Al Gore.

GPT-3’s secret – and sometimes its downfall – is a complete statistical sample of text. OpenAI, which received a $ 1 billion investment from Microsoft, hopes to one day commercialize its products. Another of these is MuseNet, a neural network that synthesizes music. His soundtracks look convincing to well-known artists, even though they “perform in a festival in a strong wind”, as one listener put it.

OpenAI has set itself a difficult task: the falsification of human singing with analog instrumental accompaniments. Electronic music is easier to generate automatically. Beginners like AiMi from the US and AI Music from the UK have programs that produce never-ending streams of electro.

What may be missing in this brave new world is originality. The more auto-generated content matches previous art, the better programmers will consider it. Coarse efforts, however, may have a clumsy robotic charm that is absent from next-generation alternatives. They are authentically unauthentic.

This is the second of five articles on blue sky thinking published by Lex today. Look out for the others in Lex online.

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