Can a Robot Write a Poem?

Michelle Monet
· 5 min read

A new book says robots will be taking over a huge percentage of human jobs in the future. But, can a robot simulate a creative act?

“Even as robots and A.I. intrigue us and make us anxious about the future, our fascination with robots has always been about more than the potential of the technology–it’s also about what robots tell us about being human.” — David Ewing Duncan

60 Minutes did an in depth story about this subject of robots and A.I last night. They said that “40% of human jobs will be replaced by A.I in the near future.”

Also, I saw there’s a new book out this week called: Talking to Robots: Tales from Our Human-Robot Futures by David Ewing Duncan. It looks fascinating. This author claims that not only 40% but up to 80% of current jobs will be replaced by A.I.


In his book, David Ewing Duncan considers 24 visions of possible human-robot futures — Incredible scenarios from Teddy Bots to Warrior Bots, and Politician Bots to Sex Bots.

From his book description: “What robot and AI systems are being built and imagined right now? What do they say about us, their creators? Will they usher in a fantastic new future, or destroy us?”

I think so many people are interested in this subject. I’m sure many of us creative types are especially concerned. What will the future of humanity be? Robots will be able to do almost everything soon. So, what will be left for humans to do?

I blurted out to Bob today during our morning coffee:

I wonder if a robot will be able to write a poem?

( I thought this was a clever and original question but nope. It had been asked many times before. Shit! There are no original thoughts anymore.)

The Irish Times did a story about this very subject recently.

“We are told that no matter how advanced artificial intelligence becomes it will most likely never attain human qualities such as pathos, empathy, humor, and the creativity that drives art, cinema and literature. However, AI is created by humans who try to advance it further every day and imbue it with humanlike qualities.” — The Irish Times

This article said that computer scientists at Microsoft Research Asia are working on designing AI that attempts to mimic the depth and creativity of poetry using images as a source of inspiration.

We’ve all looked at a beautiful sunset and some of us have even been inspired to write (good or bad) poems as a result. Can machines learn to replicate this?

“There is plenty of research into the auto-generation of straightforward descriptive text based on images and this is getting rather accurate but what if we wanted an algorithm to be both correct and poetic?” — The Irish Times

As researchers Bei Liu and Jianlong Fu explain, it is a fairly subjective task. Using more than 8,000 images, Liu and Fu trained their system using both humans and algorithmic agents. Here’s what this creative AI wrote after “seeing” a typical wintry countryside scene:

“Sun is shining.

The wind moves.

Naked trees.

You dance.”

Dartmouth college is even running a contest soon. They want to find out about this subject.

This is from the Dartmouth Neukom Institute for Computational Science:

Sure, robots can perform surgery and build cars, but can they write a sonnet? Robots can do any number of tasks and are getting increasingly human-like. But can even the best among them write a poem?

Next year, the Institute will sponsor three contests to see if participants can come up with artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that can create “human quality” fiction, poetry, or dance music.

The first annual Neukom Institute Prizes in Computational Arts represents another take on the Turing test, the experiment in which a computer or robot seems so lifelike that a person interacting with it would think it is, in fact, human.

The classic Turing test has always been held out as the benchmark of human intelligence — that is, writing an algorithm that enables a computer to carry on a conversation that fools the human on the other side.

“But even with a test like that, people always say a computer can’t write a novel or a poem. In our competitions, we hope to inspire artificial intelligence researchers to take on that challenge and create another dimension of AI — creative intelligence.”

On the website they have a funny game called bot or not. You, the judge, have to guess whether the poem you’re reading is written by a human or by a computer. If you think a poem was written by a computer, choose ‘bot’. If you think it was written by a human, choose ‘not’.

You can check it out here.

So, the question remains.

We’ll just have to wait and see if a robot can generate a poem or novel. Then, we creatives will have to again readjust our lives to this new world!


Michelle Monet has published 5 non-fiction books including 4 Poetic Memoirs. Her upcoming Memoir is about her life in show business. She is also writing a Broadway style Musical based on her life story.


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Michelle Monet

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Musician. Author. Poet. Cat Mama. Seeker. Curious Creator. Currently writing showbiz memoir and Broadway style Musical. contact:

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +513K people. Follow to join our community.

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