The most fascinating part of House’s report deals with his idea of asking the robot the same questions that George Plimpton asked Ernest Hemingway in his famous Paris Review interview in 1958. In reply to the question whether it remembered the exact moment when it decided to be a writer, it replied: “I don’t remember ever wanting not to be a writer. Writing had always been my way out. My escape. When I was a little kid, my sister was always coming home from school with homework assignments and I knew if I got hers and mine done early I could spend the next day’s lunch hour looking at books. It was the first time that I actually thought that being a writer might happen.”I’m not sure that three or four decades ago anyone imagined that utterly non-sentient automated systems would be able to ace the Turing test, but this appears incrementally to be happening. I still maintain that one day these technologies will creep across the boundary of something resembling actual “consciousness” at some significant interval before we become aware of it. Story here.
And when asked what it did when it got stuck, it replied: “It’s hard to say, but I would say that it would be better not to have a muse at all, to do all that writing you think is going to be good without any conscious control over what you do. It’s better to be totally in charge of your own actions.”
At this point, the reader gets the eerie uncanny valley feeling: this is almost, but not quite, authentic. But the technology is getting there. Why, any day now it’ll be writing newspaper columns.