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July 25, 2003

Genetic Poetry

eyes closed illumines men loved
for jest from quiet neotype
with give fire followers firm
home helmet kind infinite son
sits so still defines so
to be throne revoking of you burning
the occupied front in scene

Any guesses as to who wrote this? No-one: it was computer generated by a clever little application called Darwinian Poetry.

Unlike the Postmodernism Generator, it's not generated randomly: candidate poems are selected by a large pool of viewers: popular poems remain in the "gene pool" and unpopular ones die off. Poems in the gene pool "mate" by transferring words between each other to produce new candidates.

It's a real nice example of directed selection, and shows how order can come from disorder when there's a competing force driving selection. (The initial gene pool was just strings of words randomly selected from classic texts.) It's more akin to the way humans took wolves and then bred them into the huge variety of dogs we have now: not all of them are practical (c'mon -- what use is a Chihuaha for chrissakes?) but all are appealing to a large enough segment of the selecting population -- us -- for them to survive.

There's one major difference with biological directed selection though: two successful poems that mate are highly unlikely to breed a successful child, so I'm surprised the poems have developed as fast as they have. I guess there are biological analogues though: most fish and most insects have thousands of offspring, but only a tiny few survive to enter the gene pool.

Posted by jay at July 25, 2003 11:58 AM | TrackBack
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