Artificial Intelligence and Taste

In the fall in Toronto there are a number of book sales where one can come across gems that one had always wanted to read but failed to pick up in some trip to the library. One such volume came my way the other day: Adrienne Rich. Snapshots of A Daughter-in-law and what attracted my attention was a poem entitled “Artificial Intelligence”. I had been leafing from the back section and realized that the Notes on the Poems for this particular poem devoted considerable space to quoting from Herbert Simon. And so on to the 1961 poem. The first verse invites readers to imagine contrasting behaviours following a game of chess.

Over the chessboard now,
Your Artificiality concludes
a final check; rests; broods —
             no — sorts and stacks a file of memories,
while I
concede the victory, bow,
and slouch among my free associations.
And so on until the final stanza
Still, when
they make you write your poems, later on,
who’d envy you, force-fed
on all those variorum
editions of our primitive endeavours,
those frozen pemmican language-rations
they’ll cram you with? denied
our luxury of nausea, you
forget nothing, have no dreams.
And at this remote perspective, can we imagine an artificial intelligence roaming the bookstalls and remembering intentions that had been forgotten and reconnecting with texts that had been but glimmers on the attention horizon?

And so for day 1395