Would a Rose By Any Other Name Smell As Sweet?

Having just completed the reading of a provocative article echoing the on-air story broadcast by National Public Radio on January 16, I am left with a feeling of some concern and sadness.  According to this piece, entitled “Google’s Artifical Intelligence Translates Poetry” ,  http://www.npr.org/2011/01/16/132959095/googles-artificial-intelligence-translates-poetry , researchers are tackling a daunting task–successfully translating poetry.

Poetry is such a nuanced, linguistically sensitive subject.  The words, meter and rhyme are chosen by the poet only after deep and lengthy ponderance of the myriad choices available in the writer’s language.  Words create worlds.  The choice of a word, with its flow of vowels and consonants, sounds soft or strong, rhythms graceful or powerful, contribute totally to the overall effect of the finished line, stanza, work.  A finely crafted poem creates a world in which the reader momentarily lives.  Blessings to the poet who makes something out of nothing through the sensitive use of language.

It saddens me to think that someone believes a machine can equal this richness.  Approximate it, maybe.  Equal it, I don’t think so.  We humans have such hubris.  In our headlong rush to prove we can reinvent life, we fail to see that some things are simply beautiful in the simplicity of their being.  Poetry, whether you love it, like it or ignore it, is one of human beings’ loveliest creations.  Why must we tinker with the human capability to produce beauty by giving it to a machine? 

I’m sorry.  Call me old fashioned.  Call me sentimental.  I think that giving the translation of poetry to a machine and thinking it can spit out an equivalent to the original piece of art is a disappointing, misguided idea.

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