Sunday 18 August 2019

Dutch writer and robot write fiction together – a new chapter to I Robot

The author and his muse. Photo: Nederland Leest

Dutch writer Ronald Giphart has written a tenth chapter to the the classic novel I, Robot by Isaac Asimov in collaboration with a robot muse.

The unusual partnership was formed to support the Nederland Leest campaign to encourage reading.

Giphart’s writing partner, a robot dubbed Asibot, was developed by scientists at the University of Antwerpen who fed it the text of 10,000 Dutch novels. This enabled it to learn to write using a vocabulary of hundreds of millions of words.

‘It wasn’t easy,’ Giphart told broadcaster NOS. ‘It really taxed my brain capacity. It was very difficult to find out what he wanted me to write.’ Giphart would suggest a sentence after which the robot would produce a follow-up of three sentences in a variety of styles, from Reve to Nescio or even Giphart himself.

‘I had to make sense of it all. It was very funny and special. It was being in front of an orchestra with everybody making lots of noise with me as the conductor trying to make a symphony out of it,’ NOS quotes him as saying.

The end result resembles science fiction writer Asimov’s style, Giphart claimed. ‘We have arrived at a point where robots can write a pretty good text,’ he told NOS.

The writer is not afraid the robots might one day take over his job.

‘I write as a force and a battle against the world’, Giphart told NOS. ‘I write to entertain myself. I don’t need a robot to do that.’

The new edition of I Robot, including Giphart and the computer’s new Chapter 10, is being handed out to everyone taking part in the November Nederland Leest project, which this year focuses on robotics.

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