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Can AI write poetry?

AI head

Can AI write poetry?

I’m still not entirely sure whether I find artificial intelligence (AI) to be fascinating or frightening. Whenever I hear about a new AI tool, I can’t wait to try it, but I also feel a little bit worried about what sort of chaos I might be unleashing on the world.

At its current stage, AI seems largely gimmicky to me. It’s fun and harmless, but has no real purpose either. Recently, I’ve been playing with OpenAI – a website that, once you register, allows you to generate text, images, code and a lot more if you know what you’re doing.

Some of what it comes up with is highly impressive, so it’s with good reason that The Independent recently ran an article speculating that AI like this could one day replace search engines. But the biggest test of AI’s capabilities would seem to be whether it can create something that represents creativity and art, and in terms of text generation, the best example of this is poetry.

I thought I would ask OpenAI to start by creating a poem about Christmas, since that time of year is upon us. This is what it produced:

“Christmas is here and we all cheer
With joy and cheer and good cheer
We all come together, near and far
To celebrate the wonderful star

The lights are twinkling, the tree is lit
The smell of cookies, the fire is lit
The carols fill the air with glee
It’s a joyous time for you and me

Gifts are given, joy is spread
Families come together, we lay in bed
The smell of pine and the sight of snow
It’s a season that we all know

Christmas is here, and it’s here to stay
Bringing happiness and peace our way
We all come together, near and far
To celebrate the wonderful star”

This, I feel, is not very good. It shows an understanding of rhyme and, to an extent, rhythm, and it has grasped what Christmas is. But the opening two lines are nonsense, rhyming “cheer” with itself, and the second verse does the same thing with “lit”.

Interestingly though, I found that OpenAI fared better when it was asked to write about something more specific. A certain Engage Web team member, who shall remain nameless, has a reputation for typing loudly, so I asked it to put something together in verse about this phenomenon:

“People who type too loudly
Their keys clack like a drum
Their fingers fly so fast
It’s like a typing hum

They’re so intent on their task
They don’t care for the noise
They forget about the others
And the peace they must poise

So if you’re tired of the sound
Best keep quiet and not frown
Because those who type too loudly
Need to get their work done.”

It’s a bit of a weak ending, but it’s passable, I would say. It has an opening, a middle and a conclusion, and I would say the rhyming and rhythm are better than with the Christmas poem.

Finally, I decided to go completely surreal and request a poem about a man who died from eating nothing but Hobnobs. The first two verses of it were not worth reading, but I found the last verse brilliant:

“He gorged himself with the sweet and crunchy treats
Until his body and health could no longer compete
And so he died, with a Hobnob in his hand
The moral of his story, don’t eat just one brand.”

This made me laugh out loud, and shows a grasp of dry humour. Well done, OpenAI!

What AI produces is still all a bit too incoherent and generic to be worth reading, in my opinion, but this level of ingenuity shows that it’s not a bad source of ideas and inspiration.

With Google still not won over by AI-generated content, make sure you get skilled humans to write yours and deliver the quality you need to make your website visible. Speak to us at Engage Web about our content development services.

John Murray

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