Screenshots: Writing With Machine Learning

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Screenshots is a regular feature by Simon Groth, highlighting a project, app, or other resource of interest.

Writing with Machine Learning
By Robin Sloan

Robin Sloan, author of the novels Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough, has recently turned his attention to using artificial intelligence and machine learning as a creative tool. In discussion with Ars Technica, he elaborates on the experience of building and writing with a bot, powered by machine learning. In particular, Sloan sets his project apart from other bots that are fed texts and set to automatically generate bizarre texts as humorous social media fodder.

Using as source material thousands of issues of sci fi magazines from the 50s and 60s, Sloan’s bot acts as a kind of creative autocomplete with a sci-fi bent, a genuine tool for building literary images. Sloan himself offers an interesting analogy:

it’s like writing with a deranged but very well-read parrot on your shoulder. Anytime you feel brave enough to ask for a suggestion, you press tab, and…

The bot is open source and available to download and play with in any way you see fit. Sloan’s discussion is also available via the Ars Technica web site and well worth your time.

Simon Groth is a writer and editor whose works include Infinite Blue (with Darren Groth) and Hunted Down and Other Tales (with Marcus Clarke). With if:book Australia, Simon created a series of award-winning experimental works including the 24-Hour Book, live writing events at writers festivals around the world, and works of literary remix.

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