The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Hau I See It: Shakespeare vs. Computer

Number 1: He that unbuckles this, till we do please
To daff’t for our repose, shall hear a storm.
Thou fumblest, Eros; and my queen’s a squire

Number 2: Every private widow well may keep
From this vile world with the vilest worms to dwell:
Voice of souls give thee that the world must die:
Lawful reasons on thy revolt doth lie

You might have recognized these paragraphs as excerpts from Shakespeare, and they may have stirred up some painful memories of getting through Romeo and Juliet from freshman year. I hope that when you read those lines, I invoked unpleasant thoughts of overly-dramatic, cheesy love stories, and also reminded you of the anxiety you felt while trying to interpret Shakespeare’s “poetry” in English class.

With talk of the Poetry Slam coming up, I sat at my desk wondering if I could muster up some beautiful words worthy of being spoken at a contest. In the middle of a brain clog, I conjured up the wildest idea that a computer could write my poem for me.

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Coincidentally, my brother came home that weekend and told my family of a college assignment for which he wrote a computer program that took a collection of Shakespeare’s text and recreated text in the same writing style. One of the passages above was written by a computer and the other by Shakespeare himself.

The fact that a computer can generate text that sounds as familiar to our ears as Shakespeare’s eloquent words is revolutionary. But it is not too surprising to my perhaps inexperienced eyes. Since Shakespeare’s sentences seem like random big words pulled from an old dictionary, it does not seem groundbreaking that a computer can also string together semi-intelligent words. Technology has come so far, what less could you expect?

Though computers can imitate the style of great authors so well, they lack the emotional creativity that only people can provide for setting the tone and context of their writing. Yet that creativy is exactly what gives their stories, plays and dramas such powerful (though sometimes corny) plots.

Even so, if computers can already mimic one of the greatest writers of history, will they one day surpass the technical skills of the most talented writers of the world? That is the question.

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