Tag Archives: Jeopardy

The Rise of the Machines


Scientists, working on AI, are trying to create a computer writer that will be indistinguishable from the human one. The story reminds me of a science fiction tale.

I first became involved with computers in the age of punch cards and large tapes. Big machines in dedicated rooms were served by acolytes in white coats. Today your smart phone has more processing power and more storage than those devices of a generation ago.

The computers have not just become smaller. They have become more human like. Remember the voice of the computer on any Star Trek episode? Strange how those episodes usually involved the destruction of the computer. Contrast that with your GPS or your Siri. In a movie a couple of years ago, a man falls in love with his electronic personal assistant.

Going the other way, voice recognition has gradually moved closer and closer to reality. I’m not using it personally. I go ‘um’ and ‘ah’ too often. However, I noticed that Windows 7 came with this tool and played around with it. Still doesn’t work for me, but for people with disabilities I can see how it would be a boon.

So the computer of today can listen and talk. In the words of the Shania Twain song, “That don’t impress me much.”

I recently discovered a grammar checking tool from Languagetool.org, and I was impressed. To really edit a story, I run it through MS Word Grammar and spelling checker, then Grammatik and then I have the computer read it to me. Languagetool catches errors these three checks missed. I’m hoping I can use it to drop a couple of the other review techniques.

Still, grammar is just a set of rules isn’t it? Yes. Go to the library and pick up a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style. You might want to work out at the gym for a bit before you try. Big book filled with rules.

Chess is a game of rules. A computer, Deep Blue, won a best of six games competition with the World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov almost twenty years ago.

Another computer, Watson, won on Jeopardy almost five years ago.

AP is already using robot writers to pen earnings reports pieces.

I don’t know if the programmers can create a story making machine. I wouldn’t bet against it. And just between us, I have a sneaking suspicion that James Patterson owns the prototype.


To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net