back to article Microsoft's Chinese chatbot inspired by images to write poetry

Microsoft’s chatbot Xiaoice does a lot more than other bots. She has presented the weather on live TV and now even composed a book of poems. Xiaoice has written 12 million of poems in fact. In a paper on arXiv, researchers from Microsoft, National Taiwan University, and the University of Montreal explained that all text …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "So the unexpected verses may make the reader wonder how to interpret them."

    Poetry often seems to leave the reader trying to work out what the poet meant.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      I always thought that was the objective of poetry, to make you ponder over its deep meaning and significance

      1. Big John Silver badge

        That's what they want you to think.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Depends on the poet and the genre. In this case it's not classical but more "modern". According to some sites like the one below, there's something like 50-100 types of poetry.

      http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/list-of-50-poetic-forms-for-poets (Google "poetry types list" )for more lists and confusion.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Poetry often seems to leave the reader trying to work out what the poet meant.

      You're welcome to do that, but that is very likely not how human communication actually works in general (it's the Intentional Fallacy; see the later Wittgenstein, Davidson, Rorty, etc for more satisfactory explanations of language).

      And many poets, when discussing their own work or poetry in general, have disclaimed the notion of presenting intent-puzzles for the reader, or trying to convey some specific set of ideas intact. Take Auden, for example: "There are many definitions of what art is, but what I am convinced art is not

      is self-expression. If I have an experience, it is not important because it is mine. It is important because it's worth writing about for other people,worth sharing with other people." Shared experiences do not have the same meaning for all participants.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of the Nationwide Ad on TV

    Just a load of random sentences thrown together said in 'poetry voice' that tries to add meaning and gravitas where none exists.

    1. Anonymous Coward
  3. Teiwaz Silver badge

    All very harmlesslyAcademic...

    Until someone gnaws a leg off at a recital.

  4. ToFab

    Skynet will still kill you … but hey … now it might feel bad about it ... or ... maybe ... enjoy gutting you.

  5. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Terminator

    not sure which is worse...

    This or Vogon poetry..

    Maybe it needs experience of the human condition.. say as an android maybe? With an emotional condition such as paranoia...

    1. AIBailey

      Re: not sure which is worse...

      Wow, this work easily pushes Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings into second place.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: not sure which is worse...

        Leave us not forget J. Gordon Coogler.

        (And special mention to John Lillison, unfortunately disqualified due to ontological deficiency. Oh, pointy birds.)

  6. imanidiot Silver badge
    Trollface

    Waste of time

    I thought computers and AI were supposed to provide an improvement to life. Poetry in general doesn't do that so why bother.

    1. Joe W

      Re: Waste of time

      well... (joke icon aside)

      I would say the time spent by language teachers to force upon you their version of a poem's interpretation is a waste of time.

      Question for the teacher: did you write it? No? Then Why do you think you know what the poet meant?

      (yes, I have a bit of a trauma there - no, I don't want counseling, reading some Benn or Gernhardt[1] and having a few drinks is therapy enough)

      [1] http://www.robertgernhardt.de/tod/ -- caveat: the translations that I looked at are... of dubious quality.

      1. Kernel

        Re: Waste of time

        "I would say the time spent by language teachers to force upon you their version of a poem's interpretation is a waste of time."

        Aah yes, good old English lit' lesson one: When they ask for your opinion of a particular poem, "It's a load of shit!" is not the answer they are looking for, especially if it was written by characters with weird names like "Shakespeare", "Doone", "Browning" etc.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Waste of time

        Why do you think you know what the poet meant?

        Why do you think that has some special relationship to interpretation?

  7. Waseem Alkurdi
    WTF?

    Inspired AI? And feelings?

    We get away with assigning human attributes to lifeless, soul-less machines.

    Could somebody just tell me how the fuck is an AI "inspired"?

    Inspiration is an exclusively human experience.

    Artificial intelligence mashing words together is not inspired.

    And dunno, am I the only one who thinks that these poems are complete bullshit?

    And this (from the article):

    “In my opinion, a big improvement could be made by endowing the system with a feeling (or a model of it), so that a poem becomes an expression of feelings rather than of words. However, it is a debatable question whether an AI system could have feeling or sentiment.”

    Before you can "add" feeling (or model it, in fact), you must define it, then "quantize" it.

    Until you're able to do that, this suggestion retains its absurdity.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Inspired AI? And feelings?

      "... am I the only one who thinks that these poems are complete bullshit?"

      I'm sure you're not. However, the one shown in the article picture (click to magnify and read) seems quite good to me. Having previously lived and commuted by car in a large city (London) for some years, this has 'resonance' for me.

      Note: I'm sure that this is one of the 'best' ones carefully chosen from much dross and nonsense. So, was it random luck or does that particular 'decision pathway' need to analysed and strenghtened?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Inspired AI? And feelings?

        I wonder in MS has copyrighted these verses? If they keep up the work output from the Bot it won't be long before anything that we write in the way of verse will have already been copyrighted by MS.

        This could signify the end of Poetry as an art form. Killed by a Bot and Microsoft.

  8. SVV Silver badge

    Xiaoice has written 12 million of poems in fact

    Oh tragic driver interface operation

    dark soul of empty packet

    parrot screams in empty shoebox

    happy pain of despair

    ©ARM 2017 torture happy with your purchase

    system reported an error : 358326921

    beware spherical castle insect

    art of all ages

    cartoon spinecrusher laugh disintegrated

    joy to mb/s concept conformity

  9. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    Can it do haiku?

    I have often thought

    AI's really a bit shit

    and Microsoft too.

  10. Cuddles Silver badge

    They're just worried for their jobs

    "“It disgusted me with its slippery tone and rhythm. The sentences were aimless and superficial, lacking the inner logic for emotional expression,” said Yu Jian, a poet based in the Yunnan a province in southwestern China."

    It's well known that 90% of everything is crap, but poetry and modern art seem to go out of their way to overachieve. I guarantee that if you showed a selection of poetry with a mix of human and computer generated, no-one would be able to tell the difference.

  11. iron Silver badge

    Xiaoice has written 12 million of poems in fact

    I hope her writing is better than the author of this article.

  12. Woza
    Joke

    How many monkeys?

    If an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters would eventually produce Shakespeare, what is the number of monkeys required to match this output? Methinks we need a new Reg unit for poetry.

  13. Flakk Silver badge
    Joke

    All the Warmth and Self-Actualization of a Taylor Swift Song

    Now we know where she gets them.

    I'll take a genuine interest in Xiaoice when it starts writing dissident material that draws the attention of the central committee.

  14. GarySan

    Why criticise Google?

    Talk about double standard. Why only criticise Google when Microsoft is super proactive in China trying to promote their AI, Azure and operating systems, tweaking them at the Chinese government requests.

  15. Bibbit

    Geography also a factor?

    Quality of poetry aside,

    as the critics are poets of southern China and the bot creators are from a Taiwanese branch of Microsoft could international politics be in play?

  16. J27

    I'm not sure there is much point in machine-written poetry. Give me a call when it can write technical manuals.

  17. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    There once was a man from Nantucket

    .... etc, etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There once was a man from Nantucket

      Whose hole was large in his bucket...

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