Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Crowdsourcing Books By Robots… Read On!

We hear the terms “crowdfunding” and “crowdsourcing” and find the Kickstarter and Wikipedia world to be fascinating.  We’ve come to a time where people can work together and contribute to the greater good.  But shouldn’t we see books as the original crowdsource force for bringing ideas together for the collective, by the collective?

We may see books as individual units, each one an expression of ideas, research, experiences, and views from single authors.  But when you look at all books and see we now have millions of people who have crowdsourced history, fantasy, and everything in between, you realize that all books are pieces to a bigger puzzle.

However, books can’t tell us what is not known, and they can’t even speculate or raise questions unless they have the capacity and vision to even ask such things.  Books are limited by the world’s reality and history, by space travel and time, and by the physical limitations of our brains.  But what if books become something other than written by humans?  If computers and robots get involved, could books look a lot different?  Would a book eventually become unreadable – not because a computer may spew gibberish – but because artificial intelligence will far exceed our capacity to comprehend information and ideas presented to us?

Maybe all of this pondering is meaningless.  It’s a certainty that computers will increasingly play a role in what gets published.  Computers already help with research, editing, and generating word selection.  Computers can analyze data and find patterns that humans don’t detect easily.  Computers make us think differently about the world and tap into an awareness that the world’s growth will depend on them.

It’s hard to imagine that a creative form, such as writing, would be left to non-humans, but in the future I have no doubt that robots will be our authors. It will change the role of humans.  Humans will be editors and help determine if a robot’s book makes sense and is consumable by its readers.  The creative force will no longer lie in being a writer but in penning code to ensure that robots produce nothing less than Shakespearian quality.

We may think of robots as being task-oriented machines.  Lift this, crush that, measure this, move that.  But they are able to do so much more and once they take words and turn them into bits of data and start to process the billions and billions and billions of combinations and sequences of words, they will produce a book that could win a Pulitzer or a Nobel Prize.  For all we know, it’s happened already.  Perhaps the owner of such an invention or software prefers to remain anonymous and to keep this a secret.

Reading a book, for the near future, however, seems like it won’t change.  We’ll still read a book and choose to retain what feels useful or interesting.  But maybe one day we’ll download books to a chip in our brains and the experience will change dramatically.

It all seems like a science fiction story you’d find in a book, but we look to be moving in the direction of embracing technology and letting it take over every aspect of our lives. Technology is invasive and touches everything that we do – from work to play, from office to home to wherever we are.  It went from being a novelty and an option to a requirement.  This is progress, on one level, and something dehumanizing on another.

Whomever or whatever writes books – and however humans consume these books – we know one thing: there still remains a need for new stories, better stories, interesting ideas, and the shared discovery of new information.  Books crowdsource humanity’s needs to learn and grow and that will never change.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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