A Brief History of
Ray Kurzweil's Cybernetic Poet (RKCP)
RKCP Version 1: Mid 1980s
Version 1 of Ray Kurzweil's Cybernetic Poet was written by Ray Kurzweil in the mid 1980s (in "C") and is described in Ray Kurzweil's book The Age of Intelligent Machines (MIT Press 1990) in a section entitled A (Kind of) Turing Test.
Version 1 of RKCP was based on simple markov-like models (markov models are mathematical models similar in some respects to neural nets) to create language models of how the analyzed poets used words and word sequences, and then to write original poetry using these models.
A Poetry "Turing Test"
A (Kind of) Turing Test describes a test that Ray Kurzweil conducted in the late 1980s in which he gave poems to 16 human (both adult and child) judges. In this test, he gave each judge 28 poems, some of which were written by RKCP and some of which were written by human poets, the same poets used to create the poet personalities that RKCP used. The judges were asked if they could tell which poems were written by a human poet and which were written by the computer.
For the poem stanzas composed by the computer, the adult judges were able to identify them 59% of the time. The child judges were correct 52% of the time. The level of poetry experience of the judges did not help. Computer experience helped a little.
For the poems stanzas composed by a human, the adult judges were correct 68% of the time and the child judges were correct 42% of the time.
For all of the poem stanzas, the adult judges were correct 63% of the time and the child judges were correct 48% of the time.
Version 2 of RKCP: 1995 through 1999
Version 2 of RKCP was started by Ray Kurzweil in 1994, with a detailed design document written in August 1995. Donald Tanguay, then a Stanford University graduate student, wrote the initial code for RKCP Version 2 under Ray's supervision.
RKCP Version 2 is significantly more sophisticated in its modeling techniques, uses more complex markov models, and has the ability to model different forms of poem structure. It also has a more sophisticated user interface allowing users to analyze their own poetry files, and change and define their own poet personalities. It also includes the "Poet Assistant," which assists human poets in finding interesting and appropriate words, turns of phrase, alliterations, rhymes, half-rhymes, and other ideas.
In 1998, John Keklak (Director of Engineering for KCAT) implemented Ray's design for the Poet Assistant. Ray and John have worked together on significant enhancements to the program algorithms and user interface.
Wendy Dennis (KCAT Research Analyst) organized an effort to gather files of poetry from 16 contemporary poets. Files of poetry from 20 classical poets were provided by The Poetry Archives. Wendy was also the project's Poet Personality Designer, and designed the 100 poet personalities that are included with the program.
John Keklak and Ken Linde (KCAT's Web Engineer) designed the automated site for downloading and upgrading the program. Other resources were provided by other KCAT staff, including Aaron Kleiner, Denise Scutellaro, Lisa Kirschner, Steve Hoey, and Tom Garfield. Additional software programming was done by Emmett Witchel.
Another Poetry Turing Test
A second informal poetry "Turing Test" was conducted by Steve Hoey (KCAT Web Designer). At a poetry reading, Steve read 15 short poems to the audience, some written by human poets, and some by RKCP. The audience was able to correctly identify whether a particular poem was written by a human or by the computer less than 50% of the time.