You may remember a little while back it was revealed that Google has been feeding its neural networks steamy romance novels to read. The aim through this exercise was to teach it to produce more human-like responses in order to power its search results and ‘smart reply’ systems.

As well as forcing its neural networks to digest more than 11,000 unpublished books (3,000 of which were romance), Google Brain’s engineers have also been teaching it to relate two unique phrases to each other. As revealed in a Quartz article, the method was fairly straightforward and resulted in some really weird, romantic, dark ‘poetry’.

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it made me want to cry.
no one had seen him since.
it made me feel uneasy.
no one had seen him.
the thought made me smile.
the pain was unbearable.
the crowd was silent.
the man called out.
the old man said.
the man asked.

That is just one of many examples churned up by Google’s AI machine. To create it, the engineers obviously had to set some parameters, but it’s mostly self-made lyrical “genius” from a computer.

The method, revealed in an unpublished paper, was to present two sentences from the books and then ask the machine to link the two with a pre-determined number of phrases in a progressive manner which makes sense narratively. In the example above, the sentences in bold are the two presented to the machine, the others were created by AI.

So the researchers might say to the system: Create 13 sentences that morph from “I’m fine” to “But you need to talk to me now.” Each sentence in the series should be similar in meaning to the one before and after it to create a smooth transition, and they have to make sense grammatically and syntactically.

The point in all of this isn’t to turn Google’s AI in to a lauded poet, but rather to teach it as many human variations of phrases as possible. Putting this in to a product like its search engine will mean people can give commands and ask questions in a way they would naturally, in real life, with people.

Of course, the results are a little morbid and creepy to say the least, but, this is just the beginning. In the end, products like Google Now will start to feel more human and you’ll be able to communicate far more conversationally with them.

there is no one else in the world.
there is no one else in sight.
they were the only ones who mattered.
they were the only ones left.
he had to be with me.
she had to be with him.
i had to do this.
i wanted to kill him.
i started to cry.
i turned to him.

B+ for effort, Google.

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