The Controversy over AI

AI – Poetry and AI – Allen Ginsberg and AI –  AI is not going away and neither are its profound implications and consequently heated opinions and controversy.

Our engagement with theVerseverse collective and the current exhibit  “A Picture of My Mind” (currently on show in conjunction with”Muses and Self” at the Fahey-Klein Gallery in Los Angeles, through till September 23rd) has engendered a significant international response (all to the good).

On the one hand are the eager proponents of the new technology, anticipating the future, honored and thrilled that Allen Ginsberg has been “introduced to Web3”  and  “entered into the blockchain“. On the other, the disturbed (indeed horrified) skeptics, who, particularly in the case of Allen, see this experiment as both exploitative and insensitive, a crass and significantly gross violation of the very spirit of his work.

It is important, perhaps, to point out the subtitles of the two shows – “Muses and Self – Photographs by Allen Ginsberg”, and  “A Picture of My Mind – Poems Written By Allen Ginsberg’s Photographs”. Written By Allen Ginsberg’s Photographs, please note.
There is no suggestion that these works were written by Allen. Similarly, the misperceived imagined enthusiastic imprimatur given by the Allen Ginsberg Estate to the whole field of AI and poetry, our supposed embrace of Artificial Intelligence.

We’re not doing it, we’re simply permitting experimentation in it. A pretty important distinction, that, apparently, needs to be continually reasserted.

Hence the needlessly explosive headline this week from Democratic Underground – “Dead Allen Ginsberg is being milked for more money with AI poetry from his photographs” !
– or a more tempered critique from Dave Rubin (this appeared as a comment on our Friday Weekly Round-Up a couple of weeks back and, as such, might have been missed by some):
“Ginsberg’s legacy is alive and well, as evidenced by this website, among many many other works related to A.G. and those he promoted. His legacy doesn’t need to be “revived”. Would Ginsberg himself approve of AI?…I’d like to think he wouldn’t but I’m probably wrong about that considering his penchant for self-promotion (which, in my view, came to hurt his poetry even as it enhanced his reputation) AI-berg strikes me as a particularly anti-human Moloch – instead of killing babies, creating artificial babies as works of art – Ginsberg was the most human artist – he bared his soul and mind in an exemplary, unprecedented way – he modeled humanity for his many admirers and detractors…the people who are pushing AI-berg are selling out to the Monster TechnoMoloch – reducing Ginsberg’s poetry to machine simulations – cheapening mechanizing his legacy…”

The most sane response that we’ve seen so far comes from the editor, Raymond Foye (as part of a lively debate on the topic on the “Our Allen” Facebook page):
“I have a hunch he’d go for it (AI) as a kooky new thing, eager to see the results & hoping he might learn something new. But then I imagine his supreme critical intelligence would kick in and he would have a cogent critique as to why it wasn’t any good at the poetry game (e.g. lack of sentience).”

Our Peter Hale chimes in:
“Well said. In the end it’s the soul-lessness that makes it so uninteresting to me. Its adherents are so excited by this. I’m wondering just what I’m missing. So I’m curious to see where it goes. Can’t help but feel (right now) it’s just computer games & gimmicks…”

For previous AI and Ginsberg and AI experiences – see here (from October 2021) and, most disturbingly, here and here

For further reading and cogitation on these issues – here (May 2022) “Robots Are Writing Poetry And Many People Can’t Tell The Difference“, here (December 2022) “Can AI Write Authentic Poetry?, and, (“just a couple of weeks ago in The Washington Post) “Does An AI Poet Actually Have A Soul?

and then this week in The New York Timesthis“I Am A Code – An Artificial Intelligence Speaks”

“It is a question of how much of the experience of reality and personal relationships I want to delegate”, Werner Herzog is quoted as saying. “I do not want to have virtual friends. I want to have real friends. I want to have a friend with whom I hit the bars and tell stories and laugh and play soccer. And go on a voyage.”

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