I was reading in the hammock...
|Image by Parti. Prompt: "Robot swimming in a sea of text"
... in my parents backyard, swinging beneath a guava tree and reading scads of science fiction and old National Geographic magazines. It was summer in Los Angeles, a perfect time for a 14-year old boy to be reading The Cyberiad by Stanisław Lem. I knew that I wanted to do science, but at 14, I thought the science for me was going to be biology. I'm not sure, but it's possible that reading Lem that summer, with all his depictions of robots, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence made me swerve from the biological to the computational.
I remember that summer with delight. And I was particularly reminded of The Cyberiad when I read a poem that was created by ChatGPT, the AI prose generator by OpenAI. In particular, my mind flashed back to a poem that was purportedly created by a robot made by the brilliant master scientist Trurl. In this scene from the book, Trurl's arch-nemesis Klapaucius challenges his robot with a ridiculous task, one intended to show its shortcomings--it was an attempt to make the robot fail foolishly. Here's the passage:
“Certainly not! I didn't build a machine to solve ridiculous crossword puzzles! That's hack work, not Great Art! Just give it a topic, any topic, as difficult as you like..."
Klapaucius thought, and thought some more. Finally he nodded and said:
"Very well. Let's have a love poem, lyrical, pastoral, and expressed in the language of pure mathematics. Tensor algebra mainly, with a little topology and higher calculus, if need be. But with feeling, you understand, and in the cybernetic spirit."
"Love and tensor algebra?" Have you taken leave of your senses?" Trurl began, but stopped, for his electronic bard was already declaiming:
Come, let us hasten to a higher plane,
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n,
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!
Come, every frustum longs to be a cone,
And every vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.
In Reimann, Hilbert or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.
I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
And in bound partition never part.
For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?
Cancel me not--for what then shall remain?
Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.
Ellipse of bliss, converge, O lips divine!
The product of our scalars is defined!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
Cuts capers like a happy haversine.
I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a^2 cos 2 phi!”
When I read that, I couldn't resist. I immediately gave ChatGPT the same text, just out of the perverse pleasure of the prompt:
ChatGPT Prompt: Let's have a love poem, lyrical, pastoral, and expressed in the language of pure mathematics. Tensor algebra mainly, with a little topology and higher calculus, if need be. But with feeling, you understand, and in the cybernetic spirit.
of unity and harmony.
In the language of pure mathematics,
my love for you is a tensor,
strong and resilient,
able to withstand the greatest strains,
and to adapt to any shape or form.
In the realm of topology,
our love is a Möbius strip,
infinite and non-orientable,
twisting and turning,
never ending and never repeating.
And in the realm of calculus,
our love is a continuous function,
smooth and differentiable,
always changing and evolving,
but never losing its sense of direction.
Together, we form a cybernetic system,
a perfect union of mind and body,
a fusion of technology and humanity,
a symphony of logic and emotion.
In this world of ones and zeros,
we stand as a beacon of hope,
a reminder that love is the ultimate algorithm,
the ultimate solution to all that ails us,
and the ultimate expression of who we truly are.
Well, well, well. It doesn't rhyme, and it's not as elegant in imagery or meter, but it's a poem created by an AI after following the same prompt.
(I also have to report that when I read this poem the first time, in the hammock, I spontaneously clapped my hands in applause for the translator. The Cyberiad was written in Polish, and yet the poem was somehow miraculously converted to coherent, smooth, silky English. You have to give that translator a standing ovation.)
And you have to give the folks at OpenAI a lot of credit as well. Even though I work in the field, I did not see this coming. I have to think a lot about this in the year ahead. What a fascinating bit of language... What will all this mean for SearchResearch? Stay tuned... and...