We knew it had to happen sooner or later. Computers writing books. A recent article in BusinesWeek highlighted the exploits of Philip Parker, who has patented a process for using computer software to write books automatically. According to his web page, Parker is a Chaired Professor of Management Science at INSEAD, a French business school. The article claims that to date, Parker has written 300,000 books this way. The works are non-fiction and tend to be highly specific. His software searches databases for information on a specific topic and then populates a template. He is as circumspect about his sales as he is about the details of the process.
Could this be the end game for the long tail of book publishing? Perhaps not in general, but his use of technology shows that software automation could someday play a bigger role in very formulaic or highly structured genres. Imagine HAL, the demented computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, writing romance novels.
Google servers, which are at the heart of web search engines, have been a boon for book marketers wanting to get the word out about their titles, or for authors doing research. But now, Google is exploring a new kind of computing, “cloud computing,” which allows hundreds or thousands of computers to tackle large problems. These computers are linked by algorithms similar to those the company uses to manage the millions of daily search requests. In a sense, it is industrial computing. Other companies with large server famrs – Yahoo!, Microsoft, IBM and Amazon – are also exploring this new form big utility computing power for sale. This approach to computing essentially frees the user from Moore’s Law for single processors.
Now imagine a few years hence when cloud computing has the kinks worked out and sports an affordable entry price point for aspiring authors. Turn your high strength algorithms loose on an information rich environment and you might produce some interesting reads. Our ability to imagine what we could do with such tools may be our only limiting factor.
- Can a Computer Write a Novel?
- Long Tail Dynamics vs. the 80-20 Rule
- The Quiet Revolution in Book Writing
- Create. Rip, Mix and Burn – The Rise of Open Source Book Publishing