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By Hephzibah Anderson 22 January Artificial intelligence has long fascinated sci-fi and fantasy writers. Novelists, at least, have nothing to fear.
Or so you might think. For all these reasons and more, a robot could never rival a flesh-and-blood novelist. Yes, says futurologist Professor Kevin Warwick. And not only that, it could do so imminently. Sceptics should keep in mind that Warwick correctly predicted the advent of autonomous fighting planes —we just happen to call them drones.
Already, software systems can joke and flirt. Her nerves were strained as two tight strings.
Take the What If Machine. It works by generating scenarios in various creative palettes, in styles ranging from Walt Disney to Franz Kafka. A human must choose the genre and then select a few other details from a list before the machine spits out a gnomic creative prompt.
In the Kafkaesque category, for instance, things often seem a little too — well, Kafkaesque. He suggested it via Twitter in and it promptly took off, its only rules being that entrants must share a novel of more 50, words along with the code that generated it. The NaNoGenMo works require varying degrees of human input, though Kazemi admits that the most successful ones involve a considerable amount.
One of his favourites is The Seeker by thricedotted, which cannily casts the narrator as a robot trawling WikiHow to learn to become more human. He also points out that the writers of the algorithms bring their own human experiences to bear on their coding, adding a necessarily human element.
So does he believe a machine could write a truly great novel — one that transcends its own novelty?
That would be really cool. For now, the real challenge for developers is length. Technology would seem to be levelling the playing field by shortening our attention spans, but plenty of obstacles still separate bots from the Booker. Yet they will get there, Warwick insists — if not winning over book prize judges then certainly fooling them.
To date, our ideas about AI have been shaped largely by fiction writers. If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.
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