Friday, September 30, 2016

Notes on Maximum Volume 2: #3 Those Who Don't Build Must Burn by Brylle B. Tabora

It's 2050 and a corporation is peddling poems made by a machine called the Wellington Dollar-A-Poem Machine, which spews out 1,200 poems a day on demand. The hero, Eric Austria, ex-professor of poetry and author of a poetry book that flopped, is against it so he storms to the office of owner of the machine, Mr. Wellington, to plea for the case of the now-jobless poets. But Wellington faults the poets of 2042 for being incendiary,  writing poems that were anti-establishment which started riots and a pattern of kill, burn, kill, burn among the readers. And, Austria asks, "what about artistic freedom?" Wellington replies, "There is no freedom which is absolute." Austria replies, "But poetry, like everything, evolves---" Wellington says he'll have none of it. So, Austria sets a poem for a dollar machine on fire.  

This is the first science fiction in the Maximum Volume anthology (I don't know if there are other's as I haven't finished the book.) And it takes on the classic sci-fi theme of man vs. machine. It reminds me of the Infinite Monkey theorem, which speaks of the probability that six monkeys typing infinitely on a keyboard will churn out something shakespearian. The answer is one to infinity. But would the answer be the same with a machine, which is fed with everything that Shakespeare wrote? Will algorhytms be able to mimic the randomness and precision of human intentionality? Well, Deep Blue was programmed to speak the language of chess with a specific objective of beating its opponents. And Deep Blue beat Kasparov  in 1997. So, to reform the question, will people be able to build a machine that will conquer poetry, like Deep Blue which conquered chess? If it happens, let's take it from Prof. Austria who borrows a line from Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, saying, "Those who don't build, must burn." Good story. 

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