What should the goal of epoetry-programming be?

Sparked by this discussion and my intemperate, hyperbolic ranting.


Janus asked:

Speaking of which, are you Gnoetry guys thinking much about what computers can do _better_ than humans? Lipogrammification [;)] and Bokification (and alliteration, assonanciation, and consonanciation, for that matter) are a pain for people, but trivial for machines. I think automatic generation should focus on the low-hanging fruit = we should focus on getting machines to do what they can now do _better_ than humans (until they can do everything better than humans). What do you think?


>thinking much about what computers can do _better_ than humans?


  • Count real fast.
    • Which usually doesn’t interest me.
  • Directly ingest electricity.
    • Fascinating, but not a good long-term strategy. Especially when a tree falls across the power-lines.
  • Do exactly what they’re told.
    • Except we continue to speak different languages, unaware of our differences, stubbornly insisting the other is mistaken, but unable to articulate how.

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If I never attempted to code what computer can NOT do _better_ than humans, than computers could never do it better.




Computers can’t love words they way I do.
They can’t dream.
They can’t wish to fling words like buckets of paint, to swirl them on their digital tongues, to fill their bellies1 in their sweet, inky nectar.




attempt to mimic the creation of poetry?
become a writer-manque?
misinterpret my feeble attempts at poetic instructions and come up with some never-before-seen text in a new formant2?


oh, yeah! they’re gonna do that. we’ll stay up all night sharing electrons until our buffers are exhausted and our bandwidth runs out at the heels of our boots. we are SO gonna do that thing.


computers are also much better at subject-verb agreement, and not switching metaphors mid-stream.



And, again.


Computers can do some things SOOO much better than humans - like create long palindromes.


But that’s great, digital plastic perfection.
I’m not impressed by the output, I’m impressed by the spark that conceived of and coded the output.


I’m so much more interested in computers for their failures, in the plastic melting and causing the punch-card operators to choke on the fumes; for sparks flying up from the blinking-light-panels when the leviathan is faced with “What is Love?”; in attempting to do something right, and missing the mark spectacularly.


In that lies beauty.


Like a human drummer - the beauty is not in hitting each and every beat precisely, but in the leading and lagging beats.


Like Tinguely’s machines - the art is not in the perfection of the mechanism, but in the imperfection, the surprising variances, the “failures.”


See Also: NamJunePaik



Post-programming involvement, or, qui est quod recensiones?

An objection to allowing interactivity was suggested by ETC programmer Jim Carpenter.


My goals in the etc project include making software whose first draft is the final draft. Since Charles Hartman, folks in this field have held that their generated poetry was a dropping off point, that the work wanted a human touch. But the problem with that approach is that it gives the human-centric critics, with their socially constructed and entrenched intelligism, what they see as a reason to dismiss us. The argument goes that if a piece requires editing, the machine isn’t really doing the work. (Carpenter 2007)


But it seems that the argument “if a piece requires editing, the machine isn’t really doing the work” is weak. By definition, the computer or a programmable algorithm will always be doing some work in poetry generation. It is also true that a human will always be doing some work as well. [emphasis added]


[the article goes on to attempt to support his argument. I think I’m more inline with Carpenter.]


“When you see a phenomenon exhibited by humans, it must be that computers are able to simulate it.”

[Judea Pearl] urges computer scientists to be undaunted when they are told that a machine cannot emulate a human ability. “Don’t take no for an answer. When you see a phenomenon exhibited by humans, it must be that computers are able to simulate it,” he says. “We may not reach human level in computers, it may be just an aspiration, but aspiration leads to positive outcomes.”
Communications of the ACM, 2012.06 Vol 55 No. 6, p 23


This is a technical rebuttal to Janus’ suggestion that epoetry-programmers focus on what computers can’t do better than humans; Pearl suggests (and he should know, as the developer of Bayseian networks) that what computers can’t do better than humans is a good target. [words mine].



questioning authority

Gnoetics: Concerns about Appropriated Authorial Attribution




problems of sourcing

As not everybody might agree that the author of a programmatically-generated-text-that-used-another-text-as-an-input is solely attributable to the author, there could be copyright issues:

Generating poetry from online news sources introduces complications related to those of the affective data described above. Early codework poems with these techniques used articles from the Local News section of the Los Angeles Times, to depict contemporary life in Los Angeles (“Decline and Fall of the Southland Empire”). However, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Terms of Service, “. . .you may not archive, modify, copy, frame, cache, reproduce, sell, publish, transmit, display or otherwise use any portion of the Content. You may not scrape or otherwise copy our Content without permission” (Los Angeles Times 2011). Presumably, the poet has recourse to the fair use, without which the Times’s Terms of Service itself could not be quoted and discussed, but it is not clear to what extent fair use covers the types of techniques discussed in this section. The fair use argument becomes weaker for potential future uses of these techniques, such as automated programs that generate pseudohaiku from online news sources and distribute them via RSS feeds. Fortunately, there are good substitutes such as the free news source Wikinews, whose license specifically allows remixing and distribution with attribution.



irregular machines



Bruce Lacey’s nightmare robot - 1969 clip from British Pathe

“[...] these crazy robots all have the nightmare logic of a weird analytical dream.”



research and integration

Bruce Sterling on ‘Making the New Aesthetic’

So let’s consider “bad tech-art.” What does it look like? Well, it is, commonly, some poorly-designed, haywire, deeply private, almost chaotic device and/or installation - accompanied by a long, vague exegesis about its huge significance. This artwork barely fun ctions, communicates badly to people, is opaque to interpretation, breaks down frequently, and is generally accompanied by a tortured justification direct from the artist himself.


That is the melancholy spectacle of an art-hacker isolated by his hardware. He has never been able to mentally place his artwork within a context of similar creative activity. He or she is a one-person artistic Long-Tail. [emphasis added]


That sounds much like cargo-cult activities.
Wikipedia:Cargo_cult_programming - this is incompetence
Wikipedia:Cargo_cult - this is a desperate yearning, a frenzied invention attempting to invoke/evoke ... something


Move the cargo cult research and musings into a separate page, reference it from here. It’s a phrase I’ve often used [to describe my own “processes”], but haven’t defined well.



the machine from Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony”



Robopoetics: The Complete Operator’s Manual 2014.03, includes hand-computer poems by Claude Shannon and Jackson Mac Low. Just not sure where this sort of thing should go.


http://artistsandalgorists.com/d-o-r-t-h-e/ - mechanical typewriter “crudely” attached to radio, computer & other devices.


Computers Are People, Too!





I particular like Rodney Brooks’ “Mistaking Performance For Competence Misleads Estimates Of AI’s 21st Century Promise And Danger” which talks about how many AI methods have gone over to brute-force algorithms, instead of attempting to emulate human thought processes.





point of view

computers point of view




computer sparks


Explosive Instrumentation


exploding instrumentpanel

See Also: TVTropes:ExplosiveOverclocking


Don’t Shoot the Computer

beverly hills cop 3 sage 2


Bachelor machines

bachelor machines

See Also: MarcelDuchamp


Rage against the machine

computer sparks the thing


Exploding Computers THAT STILL WORK


What will people be better at than machines?






See Also



The History of Computer Art (Thomas Dreher) - english translation ongoing




generative rants gifs computers epoetry electronicLiterature




1 like the holy cow, I have 7 stomachs, one for each soul (↑)

2 this word may not resonate for you, but it keeps ringing in my ears. Phase IV. (↑)



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