Poetry by the Cybernetic Poet

The Stifling Stuffy

A haiku written by Ray Kurzweil's Cybernetic Poet
after reading poems by Patricia Camarena Rose and Wendy Dennis

The stifling stuffy
Catholic schoolroom,
where I cannot be real.

 

The Age of Intelligent Machines:
"A (Kind of) Turing Test"

by Ray Kurzweil

No ideas but in things.
William Carlos Williams

As discussed in several of the contributed articles in this book, the Turing test was devised by Alan Turing as a way of certifying machine intelligence. Turing described a situation in which a human judge communicates with both a computer and a human using a computer terminal. The judge's task is to determine which is which. The judge cannot see the computer or the human and must make his or her determination by interviewing both. The computer attempts to trick the judge into selecting it as the human.

The essence of the Turing Test is that the computer attempts to act like a human within the context of an interview over terminal lines. A narrower concept of a Turing test is for a computer to successfully imitate a human within a particular domain of human intelligence. We might call these domain-specific Turing tests. One such domain-specific Turing test, based on a computer's ability to write poetry, is presented here.

The Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet is a computer program (written by the author) and provided with an input file of poems written by a human author or authors. The program analyzes these poems and creates a word-sequence model based on the poems it has just read. It then writes original stanzas of poetry using the model it has created. Some of the following stanzas of poetry were written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet. Some were written by human authors (in fact the same human authors that were read and analyzed by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet). See if you can tell which are which. On a piece of paper, write down the numbers 1 through 28. Then put a C by that number if you believe that the corresponding stanza was written by the computer. Put an H if you believe the stanza was written by a human poet. The answers are in a footnote. Following the answers are the results obtained when the test was taken by 16 human (both adult and child) judges.

1.
is beauty itself
that they were walking there. All along the new world naked,
cold, familiar wind -


2.
Pink confused with white
flowers and flowers reversed
take and spill the shaded flame
darting it back
into the lamp's horn

3.
The winds of the oozy woods which wear
the ocean, with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the purple even
I sleep in the arrows
Of the dome of death.

4.
O thou,
Who moved among some fierce Maenad, even among noise
and blue
Between the bones sang, scattered and the silent seas.

5.
She eyes me with an ingrown eye,
in the rhythm of teacup tapping
thinks of sweeping away crumbs

6.
At six I cannot pray:
Pray for lovers,
through narrow streets
And pray to fly
But the Virgin in their dark wintry bed

7.
What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers
and woodthrush calling through the fog
My daughter.

8.
Imagine now a tree in white sails still whirled
About the leaves
will be of silences
Calm and angels

9.
-and the sun, dipping into the avenues
streaking the tops of
the irregular red houselets,
and
the gay shadows dropping and dropping.

10.
The morning and already
a perfect if slightly paled
old park turned with young women
seized in amber

11.
"Interesting book?"
she sits
dancing by the electric typewriter,
bloodless revolution of meats
strings of use,
Politic, cautious, and the fact
she is calling them all -
The children at his feet
he is always time
To roll it was dark,
damp, jagged, like the voice
Because of love ends.

12.
Men with picked voices chant the names
of cities in a huge gallery: promises
that pull through descending stairways
to a deep rumbling.

13.
Where were thou, sad Hour, selected from whose race is
guiding me,
Lured by the love of Autumn's being,
Thou, from heaven is gone, where was lorn Urania
When rocked to fly with thee in her clarion o'er the arms of death.

14.
Lady of Autumn's being,
Thou, from the day, having to care
Teach us now thoroughly small and create,
And then presume?
And this, and me,
And place of the unspoken word, the unread vision in Baiae's bay,
And the posterity of Michelangelo.

15.
I am lonely, lonely.
I slap an answer myself
she hides deep within her
yet plays-
Milkless.

16.
O my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against trespassers,
against thieves,
storms, sun, fire,
against thieves,
storms, sun, fire,
against flies, against weeds, storm-tides,
neighbors, weasels that waken
The silent seas.

17.
the days, locked in each other's arms,
seem still
so that squirrels and colored birds
go about at ease over
the branches and through the air.

18.
I am watching ants dig tunnels and bury themselves
they go without water or love

19.
Lady is sick,
perhaps vomiting,
perhaps laboring
to the usual reign

20.
Rain is sweet, brown hair;
Distraction, music in passageways.
Six o'clock.
The time. Redeem
The world and waking, wearing

21.
Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

22.
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

23.
patches of all
save beauty
the rigid wheeltracks.
The round sun
the bed.
She smiles, Yes
you please first
then stays
with herself alone
and then dividing over and over
and splashed and after you are
listening in her eyes

24.
All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushed and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines-

25.
Pray for those who are branches on forever

26.
Like a sod of war;
houses of small white curtains-
smell of shimmering
ash white,
an axe

27.
By action or by suffering, and whose hour
Was drained to its last sand in weal or woe,
So that the trunk survived both fruit or flower;-

28.
is a steady burning
the road the battle's fury -
clouds and ash and waning
sending out
young people,

The above 28-question poetic Turing test was administered to 16 human judges with varying degrees of computer and poetry experience and knowledge. The 13 adult judges scored an average 59 percent correct in identifying the computer poem stanzas, 68 percent correct in identifying the human poem stanzas, and 63 percent correct overall. The three child judges scored an average of 52 percent correct in identifying the computer poem stanzas, 42 percent correct in identifying the human poem stanzas, and 48 percent correct overall.

The charts below show the actual scores obtained by the 16 human judges as broken down by adult/child, computer experience, and poetry experience. As can be seen from the charts, there were no trends based on level of computer experience or poetry experience clearly discernible from this limited sample. The adults did score somewhat better than the children. The children scored essentially at chance level (approximately 50 percent) and the adults achieving slightly better than chance.

The second chart shows the number of correct and incorrect answers for each of the 28 poems or stanzas. While the adult judges scored somewhat better than chance (63 percent), their answers were far from perfect. The computer poet was able to trick the human judges much of the time. Some of the computer poems (numbers 15 and 28, for example) were particularly successful in tricking the judges.

We can conclude that this domain-specific Turing test has achieved some level of success in tricking human judges in its poetry-writing ability. A more difficult problem than writing stanzas of poetry is writing complete poems that make thematic, syntactic, and poetic sense across multiple stanzas. A future version of the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet is contemplated that attempts this more difficult task. To be successful, the models created by the Cybernetic Poet will require a richer understanding of the syntactic and poetic function of each word.

Even the originally proposed Turing test involving terminal interviews is notably imprecise in determining when the computer has been successful in imitating a human. How many judges need to be fooled? At what score do we consider the human judges to have been fooled? How sophisticated do the judges need to be? How sophisticated (or unsophisticated) does the human foil need to be? How much time do the judges have to make their determination? These are but a few of the many questions surrounding the Turing test. It is clear that the era of computers passing the Turing test will not happen suddenly. Once computers start to arguably pass the Turing test, the validity of the tests and the testing procedures will undoubtedly be debated. The same can be said for the narrower domain-specific Turing tests.

We have not yet reached the point at which computers can even arguably pass the originally proposed terminal-interview type of Turing test. This test requires a computer to master too many high-level cognitive skills in a single system for the computer of today to succeed. As Dan Dennett points out in his article, the unadulterated Turing test is far more difficult for a computer to pass than any more restricted version. We have, however, reached the point where computers can successfully imitate human performance within narrowly focused areas of human expertise. Expert systems, for example, are able to replicate the decision-making ability of human professionals within an expanding set of human disciplines. In at least one controlled trial, human chess experts were unable to distinguish the chess-playing style of more sophisticated computer chess players from that of humans. Indeed, computer chess programs are now able to defeat almost all human players, wi! th the exception of a small and diminishing number of senior chess masters. Music composed by computer is becoming increasingly successful in passing the Turing test of believability. The era of computer success in a wide range of domain-specific Turing tests is arriving.


Adult scores on poem stanzas composed by a computer
(13 adults, % correct)
Level of computer experience
Level of poetry experience Little Moderate Professional Average
Little 56 44, 69, 75 63, 75 64
Moderate 50, 56, 63 56, 63 75 61
A lot 25 25
Average 56 61 59 59


Children's scores on poem stanzas composed by a computer
(3 children, % correct)
Scores 38, 50, 69
Average 52


Adult scores on poem stanzas composed by a human
(13 adults, % correct)
Level of computer experience
Level of poetry experience Little Moderate Professional Average
Little 83 58, 58, 100 50, 67 69
Moderate 60, 67, 83 58, 83 92 74
A lot 25 25
Average 73 72 59 68


Children's scores on poem stanzas composed by a human
(3 children, % correct)
Scores 33, 42, 50
Average 42


Adult scores on all poem stanzas
(13 adults, % correct)
Level of computer experience
Level of
poetry experience  
Little   Moderate   Professional   Average
         
Little 68 50, 64, 86 57, 71 66
Moderate 55, 61, 71 61, 68 82 66
A lot 25 25
Average 64 66 59 63


Children's scores on all poem stanzas
(3 children, % correct)
Scores 39, 43, 61
Average 48


Numbers of right and wrong answers for each poem stanza:
Poem stanza   Number  
right
  Number  
wrong
Computer or human
poem stanza
1 9 7 computer
3 11 5 computer
4 8 8 computer
6 9 7 computer
8 11 5 computer
11 11 5 computer
13 8 8 computer
14 10 6 computer
15 6 10 computer
16 10 6 computer
19 9 7 computer
20 12 4 computer
23 9 7 computer
25 8 8 computer
26 11 5 computer
28 6 10 computer
Average 58% 42%
2 9 7 human
5 9 7 human
7 9 7 human
9 13 3 human
10 8 8 human
12 10 6 human
17 9 7 human
18 14 2 human
21 11 5 human
22 11 5 human
24 11 5 human
27 8 8 human
Average 64% 36%
Overall average 61% 39%


Note
Four human poets were used: three famous poets (Percy Bysshe Shelley, T.S. Eliot, and William Carlos Williams) and one obscure poet (Raymond Kurzweil). In the case of the famous human poets, stanzas were selected from their most famous work. In all cases, the stanzas selected did not require adjacent stanzas to make thematic or syntactic sense. The computer stanzas were written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after it had read poems by these same human authors. The answers are as follows:

Poem stanza 1 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by William Carlos Williams
Poem stanza 2 written by William Carlos Williams
Poem stanza 3 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Poem stanza 4 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by T.S. Eliot and Percy Bysshe Shelley
Poem stanza 5 written by Raymond Kurzweil
Poem stanza 6 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by T.S. Eliot, Raymond Kurzweil, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Carlos Williams
Poem stanza 7 written by T.S. Eliot
Poem stanza 8 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by Raymond Kurzweil and T.S. Eliot
Poem stanza 9 written by William Carlos Williams
Poem stanza 10 written by Raymond Kurzweil
Poem stanza 11 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by Raymond Kurzweil and T.S. Eliot
Poem stanza 12 written by William Carlos Williams
Poem stanza 13 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Poem stanza 14 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by T.S. Eliot and Percy Bysshe Shelley
Poem stanza 15 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by Raymond Kurzweil and William Carlos Williams
Poem stanza 16 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by T.S. Eliot, Raymond Kurzweil, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Carlos Williams
Poem stanza 17 written by William Carlos Williams
Poem stanza 18 written by Raymond Kurzweil
Poem stanza 19 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by T.S. Eliot, Raymond Kurzweil, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Carlos Williams
Poem stanza 20 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by Raymond Kurzweil and T.S. Eliot
Poem stanza 21 written by T.S. Eliot
Poem stanza 22 written by T.S. Eliot
Poem stanza 23 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by Raymond Kurzweil and William Carlos Williams
Poem stanza 24 written by William Carlos Williams
Poem stanza 25 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by T.S. Eliot, Raymond Kurzweil, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Carlos Williams
Poem stanza 26 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by Raymond Kurzweil and William Carlos Williams
Poem stanza 27 written by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Poem stanza 28 written by the Kurzweil Cybernetic Poet after reading poems by William Carlos Williams

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