Human writer or robo-poet? It’s sometimes hard to tell

By Toby Manhire In Poetry, The Internaut

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16th March, 2014 Leave a Comment

What do you make of this?

This note’s

     solidly good commotion –

Can it understand itself?

 That’s one of the poems served up by Bot or Not, a website which asks users to answer the question, “was this written by a human or a computer?”

Michelle Starr of CNET explains:

Developed by RMIT Melbourne creative media PhD candidate Benjamin Laird and PhD candidate Oscar Schwartz (who is writing a thesis on whether computers can write poetry), the website is described as a “Turing test for poetry”. The Turing test is a test developed by Alan Turing to determine whether an intelligence is human or artificial.

Created for Melbourne’s recent Digital Writers Festival, the site also reveals which of the poems get most often mistaken for being created, respectively, by a bot or a homo sapiens.

The poem most frequently wrongly thought to be written by a human is “A Wounded Deer Leaps Highest”, which 68% of respondents thought to be the work of a woman or man.

It is, in fact, a product of Ray Kurzweil’s Cybernetic Poet, and goes like this:

A wounded deer leaps highest,

I’ve heard the daffodil

I’ve heard the flag to-day

I’ve heard the hunter tell;

‘Tis but the ecstasy of death,

And then the brake is almost done,

And sunrise grows so near

sunrise grows so near

That we can touch the despair and

frenzied hope of all the ages.


And the human-composed poem most likely (at 77% of responses) to be judged a computer formulation is Deanna Ferguson’s “Cut Opinions”.

cut opinions tear tasteful

hungers huge ground swell

partisan have-not thought

green opinions hidden slide

hub from sprung in

weather yah

bold erect tender

perfect term transparent till

I two minute topless formed

A necessarily sorry sloppy strands

hot opinions oh like an apple

a lie, a liar kick back

filial oh well hybrid opinions happen

not stopped

I got most that I attempted right. Apart from one bit of gibberish I judged to be automated, only to be informed: “This poem was written by the human Robert Frost.”

And that “This note” poem? Written by an algorithm, called Janus Node.

See also: A worldwide epidemic of poetic plagiarism

Judith Collins has a poem for you

The algorithm that can pick a bestseller


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