Bot or Not?

Folks in the humanities like to argue that their jobs will never be taken over by machines. Surely poets who write from the heart can never be replaced. Computer-generated poetry would like to argue that it can. 

Sometimes when I like to take a quick break from my work to destress I’ll go on Buzzfeed and take one of their inane quizzes. One time I took a quiz to see who I should marry and then it ended up being pizza. True love for bread and cheese aside, they’re fun distractions from college stress. And while I was looking at the quizzes, I found one labeled “Who Said It: A Poet or a Bot?” After getting most of the questions right, it led me to a website called “Bot or Not” (link here: http://botpoet.com/what-is-computer-poetry/).

On this website, you could play an endless of game of who said it. But I discovered that there’s a movement of programmers making computer-generated poetry. According to the site, “What we mean by ‘computer-generated poetry’ is: text, that is generated through an algorithm, which is executed by a digital, electronic computer, which is intended, by whoever it may be, to be read as poetry.” Although the definition is broad, it led me to think about the nature of poetry. Can the words really be strung together by an algorithm to create a poem? Do we only think the work is a poem because we have the preconceived notion that it is a poem? What is a poem? Are poets replaceable? *Cue existential crisis.*

In short, no, I don’t think poets are replaceable at all. Our choices are deliberate and thoughtful. But I think Bot or Not is still a really interesting experiment. Since I’ve been reading more poetry in the past few years, it was somewhat easy for me to tell which poem was a bot-poem and which one was written by a poet. But I wonder if the casual reader of poetry could tell.

So if you have time to spare, check out the link and see how well you do!

2 Replies to “Bot or Not?”

  1. Hi Christina! Wow I loved this post! I have heard the idea as well that one day (not too far down the road) everything we do will be replaced by machines. (I always instantly think of the movie Wall-E when people talk about this possibility.) I can’t predict what the future will hold, but I do agree that I doubt anything could ever replace poets and writers and even philosophers.

    The website “Bot or Not” is really fun! I got tricked a few times but overall was proud of the guesses I chose. The definition they gave for poetry was what struck met the most. It’s one of those definitions people give when they have no clue what poetry is. I feel like many people try to condense poems down to a simple definition or idea, but we know that isn’t true.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. So cool. This kind of stuff reminds us that even though language has its limits, the language in art is ever-expanding. It’s scary to think that a computer, an unemotional machine, has the ability to produce “poetry”, when it is so accepted that poetry is a human response to life. It’s ironic and chilling and awesome.

    Plus, all the different symbols open up a whole new can of worms in terms of punctuation. What does an underscore do for a pause or a line break?

    Despite the eerie concept of computer poetry, it is definitely an important topic to discuss in 2014. Does it suggest that we are becoming robots? Or are robots taking over? Are poets embracing the new forms of communication and expression the same way an electronic DJ does?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *