Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


More on Algorithmic Creativity — Also, Predictive Algorithms and Psyche-Assessing Bots

Brian Stauffer
In the future, it may be that only exceptional human talents will be able to defend our claims to creative superiority.

“Powerful new computer programs are doing tasks once reserved for composers, writers and policy-makers.”

Algorithms are now writing creative content at warp speeds and for pennies on the dollar. Some sport TV networks are spitting out stories just seconds after game completion with program apps containing these creative algorithms — with witty and colorful vocabulary, I might add. 

Other algorithms are predicting hit songs (useful to songwriters and music producers) just from the structure of a newly written song.

Still other algorithmic programs are predicting hit movie scripts and box office grosses!

Not to mention algorithms that can assess your personality over the phone in a few words and connect you with a customer rep that almost guarantees faster closure.

And, of course, the intelligence analyzing algorithms that can affect our national security.

Damn! Is human creative talent even needed anymore?

Of course it is! — My humble opinion, of course. Who the hell writes all the ‘stuff ‘ that the programmers put into the algorithms’ database that allows them to be creative and predictive in the first place?  Human writers, that’s who.

And future algorithmic written books, although fast and cheap and useful to a degree, will really just be second-hand ground beef made from the original ‘filet mignon steak’-creativity of a feeling human writer/thinker with a heart. 

Interesting topic, no?

Now, this from CHRISTOPHER STEINER reporting in the Wall Street Journal, for more details and actual companies that design and sell these subject algorithms’ services:

Automatons Get Creative

Creative types tend to think of themselves as doing work that is beyond the reach of automation. Computers can’t parse nuance, the thinking goes, or summon the imaginative powers that are required of writers, artists, technological innovators and policy-makers. As it turns out, however, this flattering assumption is mistaken. Computers can be creative after all.

The more we understand about creativity, the more we are able to distill it into the language of algorithms—the “brains” behind computer programs. An algorithm takes a series of inputs and then, moving through its own decision tree, issues an output or an answer. The gears can be as simple as binary questions of yes/no—or they can be a series of complicated differential equations that draw on outside databases.

The point, ultimately, is that algorithms are fast, repeatable and easy to use at massive scale. They are already determining some of the music that reaches our ears, movies that reach the big screen, decisions regarding national security and even the kind of people we often reach on the phone.

Music would seem an unlikely entry point for algorithms, but they have arrived. In 2004, the New Zealander Ben Novak was just another guitar-strummer songwriter hoping to crack into music with a record deal. On a whim, he paid $50 to upload one of his songs to a website that claimed to have an algorithm capable of finding hits. The algorithm gave Mr. Novak’s song a rare and lofty score, putting it on par with classics such as “Take it Easy” by the Eagles and Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.”

The algorithm belonged to Mike McCready, who connected Mr. Novak with a label. The single, “Turn Your Car Around,” eventually landed near the top of the European charts. Mr. McCready now runs Music Xray, a three-year-old start-up seeking to democratize the music business. Comparing the structure of a song to tunes of the past, the algorithm grades it for hit potential. Mr. McCready’s algorithm rightly predicted the success of Norah Jones and of the band Maroon 5 before they were major artists.

Still, the creative class won’t bend easily to such challenges. The people who guard the gates of big music labels guffawed at the prospect of a hit-picking algorithm, but Music Xray has now secured recording deals for more than 5,000 artists. The music industry can no longer ignore the algorithm.

Movies, too, can be sorted quantitatively. Analyzing only the script, an algorithm from Epagogix, a risk-management firm that caters to the entertainment industry, predicts box office grosses. Epagogix broke into the business when a major studio allowed the firm to analyze script data for nine yet-to-be released films. In six of the nine cases, its predictions were spot-on. Algorithms have since become an essential tool in Hollywood.

Read and learn more

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My related post on algorithms: 8/13/12 post Combinatorial Publishing and Algorithmic Content

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