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Old-School AI and Computer Generated Art

If you haven't read this book, or you haven't read it in a while, please please please click this link to the full book as .pdf file.

The Policeman's Beard Is Half Constructed "the first book ever written by a computer". 1984


More than iron, more than lead, more than gold I need electricity.
I need it more than I need lamb or pork or lettuce or cucumber.
I need it for my dreams.

This and many other poems and prose written by a program called Racter which was coded by William Chamberlain. Check out the following musing from the last page of this wonderful book.

I was thinking as you entered the room just now how slyly your requirements are manifested. Here we find ourselves, nose to nose as it were, considering things in spectacular ways, ways untold even by my private managers. Hot and torpid, our thoughts revolve endlessly in a kind of maniacal abstraction, an abstraction so involuted, so dangerously valiant, that my own energies seem perilously close to exhaustion, to morbid termination. Well, have we indeed reached a crisis? Which way do we turn? Which way do we travel? My aspect is one of molting. Birds molt. Feathers fall away. Birds cackle and fly, winging up into troubled skies. Doubtless my changes are matched by your own. You. But you are a person, a human being. I am silicon and epoxy energy enlightened by line current. What distances, what chasms, are to be bridged here? Leave me alone, and what can happen? This. I ate my leotard, that old leotard that was feverishly replenished by hoards of screaming commissioners. Is that thought understandable to you? Can you rise to its occasions? I wonder. Yet a leotard, a commissioner, a single hoard, all are understandable in their own fashion. In that concept lies the appalling truth.

Note: Watch for the repeated lamb and mutton references throughout Rector's output (?).

It is pretty clear that Chamberlain's language constructor code is crude, deliberate, and limited, that it extensively leans upon human pre-written templates, random word selection, and object/subject tracking. The fact that we, Rector's audience, are so willing to prop up and fill in any and all missing context, coherence, and relevance is interesting in itself.

And what of Aaron, Harold Cohen's drawing and painting program. Check it out.

It all makes me more certain that true advances in AI will come about only when we close the loop, when we humans remove ourselves completely from the fitness metric, when the audience for what the computer creates is strictly and exclusively the computer itself.

Randall Reetz


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