poetry machine,

a “science parable” known in many renditions and interpretations: “fantasy that survived itself as reality.” There once lived — long before Minds — a Human who wanted to be a famous poet, but he couldnt write; so he made a Poetry Machine instead where myriads of intelligences (the inventor had them, in different versions, farmed, copied from unsuspecting humans, let evolve in a virtual world) lay asleep in their cells — to be duplicated and awakened, millions every second, with a single goal in life: to read the poem-so-far and react to a randomly chosen next word. Define the best poem as one where each subpoem has maximum impact — subjective torque — upon a maximum of readers; thus, a large enough pool of respondents will sooner or later put the absolute best words in the best order. (Torque could also leak in from existing poetry, so youd need a filter to block close matches of known poems.) Naturally, every reading had to be fresh, with no memory of past choices — so, after each round, used respondents were simply erased. ■    “Billions of thankless deaths for a few pages of mediocre verse”: all variants of the legend describe Machines output as middling. Smooth, sonorous, sometimes dryly inventive — “thats all there was to it”; art by majority vote failed to accrue cherishability or staying power — at best it was like modernitys “light music” that played in public spaces to fill the uncomfortable silence. ■    The legend is vague on the inventors fate; in some retellings he uploads his own self into the Machine “to suffer neverending deaths” as a form of self-punishment. The Machines claimed mediocrity speaks more about the ethos of the legends age — the Mind emancipation era — than about a real workability of the method; indeed feeleries saturate modern art, many techniques using — and discarding — throngs of them (e.g. perturbational evolving where small fragments of a piece are erased, explay-like, to find better replacements — effecting a gradual overall drift). The tyranny-bashing dystopia has been rethinged diametrically: what if one wills such a faceted multilife, is convinced that each momentary wake is as full and beautiful — “all of the meaning, none of the gruntwork” — as any regular “big” life? No one forced the Machines slaves to read and judge, they craved it just as we crave our assorted endeavors; the lives we live are longer, freer, diverser — but arent the differences (especially for Minds) “disturbingly quantitative”? What is our whole civilization if not an overcomplex ownerless Poetry Machine?

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