When poetry gets tech-savvy

Updated: 01 October, 2020 11:06 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

Digital poet Eran Hadas unpacks the intersection between poems and technology

Eran Hadas hopes his session will enrich attendees, and that they will share some of his passion for this field
Eran Hadas hopes his session will enrich attendees, and that they will share some of his passion for this field

An experimental software developer and poet, Eran Hadas has unique accomplishments to his credit. Apart from building computer-based poetry generators, the Israeli has worked on creating a headset that generates poems from brainwaves, a documentarian robot that interviews people about the meaning of being human, and an artificial intelligence art curator. For those unacquainted with computational poetry, this may seem rather bizarre but today, Hadas will conduct a live session, presented by the Embassy of Israel in India, Consulate General of Israel in Mumbai, Literature Live! and Avid Learning, to deconstruct what the field entails and its future. Edited excerpts from an interview.

For those unacquainted with computational poetry, how would you best describe it and what drew you to the subject?
Most people think of it as a computer that generates poetic texts, and this is how I got into this field, trying to reconcile my passion for poetry with my practice as a software developer. However, I think that computational poetry does not require any computer. Any poem that involves more than just a direct expression of emotions has something to do with counting, measuring, comparing or randomizing. In the talk, I'll share how even lyric poems involve some computations.

The discourse around big data and artificial intelligence is largely gravitating towards an Orwellian future. What is the place of poetry and art, that intersect with technology, in this context?
In the book Nineteen Eighty-Four creativity is destroyed, but in many dark regimes art had an honourable place. If we're not there yet, I think that poetry and art represent something that has no material purpose or function, and therefore it is bound to raise questions. I would like for art that deals with technology to be constantly questioning where we go and how we act. Any artificially produced creation is automatically being compared to human creation, and in that sense, it puts a mirror in front of us. I hope it can highlight our expectations from ourselves and from technology, and challenge the problems we see emerge. However, as in most good science fiction stories, the ones who are really guilty are never the machines, always the humans who control them.

What are you working on currently?
I have just come back from a residency at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. I spent some time in the Department of Molecular Genetics, where I experimented with treating words as genetic creatures. The AI model says that the offspring of the words "shameless" and "candidate" is "politician". "Poetry" and "computer" breed "books". It also performs a natural selection and chooses which words may live on and which are to be removed.

On Today, 6 pm to 7.30 pm
Log on to www.avidlearning.in (to RSVP)

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First Published: 01 October, 2020 09:30 IST

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