Knowledge Engineering: Computer Written Fiction

Through the evolution of knowledge engineering, computer written fiction could be a stepping stone in technology that has yet to be defined.


| February 2014



Computer written fiction found on bookshelves

Bioevolution may have spawned technoevolution, but the accelerating pace of scientific discovery makes it all but certain that humanity is destined to take evolution into its own hands.

Photo by Fotolia/Ermolaev Alexandr

From Literature to Biterature (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013) is based on the premise that, in the foreseeable future, computers will become capable of creating works of fiction. Author Peter Swirski considers hundreds of questions, among them: Under which conditions would machines become capable of computer written fiction? Can machines have artificial creativity, or is it merely an extension of technological capabilities still undiscovered? In this excerpt, Swirski introduces some of the thought-provoking questions and theories surrounding this potential technology.

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Narrative Intelligence

The first general-purpose — Turing-complete, in geekspeak — electronic brain was a behemoth of thirty-plus tons, roughly the same as an eighteen-wheeler truck. With twenty thousand vacuum tubes in its belly, it occupied a room the size of a college gym and consumed two hundred kilowatts, or about half the power of a roadworthy semi. Turn on the ignition, gun up the digital rig, and off you go, roaring and belching smoke on the information highway.

Running, oddly, on the decimal rather than the binary number system, the world’s first Electronic Integrator and Computer also boasted a radical new feature: it was reprogrammable. It could, in other words, execute a variety of tasks by means of what we would call different software (in reality, its instructions were stored on kludgy manual plug-and-socket boards). Soldered together in 1946 by John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert at the University of Pennsylvania, the ENIAC was a dream come true.

It was also obsolete before it was completed. The computer revolution had begun.

The rest is history as we know it. In less than a single lifetime, ever more powerful computing machines have muscled in on almost all facets of our lives, opening new vistas for operations and research on a daily basis. As I type this sentence, there are more than seven billion people in the world and more than two billion computers — including the one on which I have just typed this sentence. And, by dint of typing it, I have done my bit to make the word “computer” come up in written English more frequently than 99 per cent of all the nouns in the language.

Ebit
3/5/2014 12:53:00 PM

Okay I think I get it: Mr. Swirski has written some books which are for sale, and they're pretty good (just ask him). I still think the title describes an interesting topic. Someone should write about it.