Beware the poetabyte


At a symposium in 2000 on "Artificial Intelligence and the Simulation of Behaviour", a group put forth its paper called "Towards A Computational Model of Poetry Generation", which laid out the difficulties of artificially generating poetry to demonstrate the level of cognition that could be attained by computers. That was before the official dawn of big data. They're still at it. I fear they will succeed and leave us with this:

"Beware the poetabyte"

There was a time we needed them
their voices their vision their clarity of thought
for they noticed things.

They noticed how the fog comes in on little cat feet*
how a sweet disorder in the dress, kindles in clothes a wantonness**.
We needed them to see what we could not
for all the hurry and the worry of our self-selected lots.

But no one cares today what a thinker thinks
a dreamer dreams
we have algorithms to tug at the seams
and squint at all that lies within our strata:
the reams, the stores, the cache, as they say, of big data.

Few wring their hands over privacy as if it still remains,
but many dread with some hilarity the approaching singularity.
Neither I nor my personas
think for a minute or a million iotas we'll live to see that day.

But lurking out there not far away
somewhere shy of omnipotence
and from the Omega point quite some way still,
perhaps within the first zetta-, yotta- or brontobyte
lies the dispiriting specter of
the poetabyte
where coding is not Kafkaesque but conjures Kafka himself
where Milton becomes routine merely through the act of running one
and where all the nuance we never sought is sifted artificially.

No longer will creative minds ponder
The depth and breadth and height*** that lie yonder
And when a young man searches for the words
to win a girl's heart in one fawning fell swoop
only a mile-wide array of servers
will find something romantic to rhyme with Hadoop.  - Tim


*Carl Sandburg

**Robert Herrick

*** Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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