Google’s AI Loves Romance Novels

We have been fascinated/terrified by the possibility of robots learning how to love for what feels like the dawn of society. In news that will only galvanize those curiousities and fears, the most influential tech company in the world is one step closer to making that comic book plot a fact of life.

Engineers at Google have been exposing their app’s artificial intelligence (AI) to text from lusty romance novels in order to adjust its stiff responses to more naturalistic, conversational stentence structures. Titles like Ignited and Jacked Up are now in its vocabulary, which workers say elevate the Google app’s personality, making it easier for users. The AI will, in theory, be able to describe products and places more naturally, as well as help provide more human responses for Google Inbox’s “Smart Reply” tool.

Why engineers at Google believe this red-light pulp is lingua franca is a bit confounding, but their explanation is sound. Most of the books the AI has ‘read’ follow the same rote structure – an endless cycle of fascination, seduction, heartbreak, lather, rinse, repeat – it is learning to convey the same information in different ways. Since the writing is more, shall we say, varied and bright than children’s books, the AI has a wider range of expression that it can relay to users. Since speeding through approximately 2,865 romance novels, the AI has been able to write sentences based on their language and syntax, self-calibrating and improving its writing without any engineer’s help.

Technology of this sort has been automating human jobs for years now, from fast food to journalism, and researchers say that they are slowly shaping this innovation so it does not become too forward or offensive when used. They add, however, that it is not beyond belief that someone could go full Her and fall in love with an intuitive AI system. For right now, one can only dream (or have nightmares) of it.

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