Computers to compete in dropping mad beats

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Computers to compete in dropping mad beats

CONCORD, New Hampshire - Can an algorithm pass for an author? Can a robot rock the house? A series of contests at Dartmouth College is about to figure it out.

Dartmouth is seeking artificial intelligence algorithms that can create “human-quality’’ short stories, sonnets and dance music sets that will be pitted against literature, poetry and music selections produced by humans. The judges will not know which is produced by which. The goal is to determine whether people can distinguish between the two, and whether they might even prefer computer-generated creativity.

“Historically, often when we have advances in artificial intelligence, people will always say, ‘Well, a computer couldn’t paint a sunset,’ or ‘a computer couldn’t write a beautiful love sonnet,’ but could they? That’s the question,’’ said Dan Rockmore, director of the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth.

Rockmore, a mathematics and computer science professor, spun off the idea for the contests from his experience of riding a stationary bike. He started thinking about how the music being played during his spin class helped him pedal at the right pace, and he was surprised when the instructor told him he selected the songs without the help of computer software.

“I left there thinking, ‘I wonder if I could write a program that did that, or somebody could?’’’ he said. “Because that is a creative act - a good spin instructor is a total artist. It sort of opened my mind to think about whether a computer or algorithm could produce something that was indistinguishable from, or even perhaps, preferred over what the human does.’’

The competitions are variations of the “Turing Test,’’ named for British computer scientist Alan Turing, who in 1950 proposed an experiment to determine if a computer could have humanlike intelligence. The classic Turing test involves intelligent computer programs that can fool a person having a conversation with it, and there have been many competitions over the years, said Manuela Veloso, professor of computer science and robotics at Carnegie Mellon University and past president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.

What sets the Dartmouth contests apart is the evaluation by judges who will try to determine whether the work was generated by computers or humans, and whether people prefer the computer-generated work, Veloso said. She said it will be interesting to see who does the judging - fooling a publisher with a computer-generated short story would be more significant than fooling the average reader, for example.

The contests, dubbed DigiLit, PoetiX and Algorhythms, will run through the upcoming academic year, with prizes awarded in April. For both writing contests, if a computer-generated story or poem is scored as human by a majority of judges, the creators will win $5,000. In the music contest, six finalists will compete against human DJs during a dance party, selecting music from a list of 1,000 tracks that will be released just before the competition.

Both the human DJs and the computers will be hidden from the view of the dance floor, Rockmore said. AP
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