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“Even when GPT-3 failed, it was producing thought-provoking poetry” – an interview with Jukka Aalho, author of Aum Golly

“Even when GPT-3 failed, it was producing thought-provoking poetry” – an interview with Jukka Aalho, author of Aum Golly

Last autumn, Jukka Aalho, writer and freelance marketer from Oulu, Finland, sat down and wrote a poetry collection together with GTP-3 in 24 hours. The result was “Aum Golly: Poems on an Artificial Intelligence” (2021). 

if kites flew like boomerangs
and all the stars were made of glass
the moon’s face was a silver mask
and the sun a golden apple
and I saw a storm of diamonds
sow the sky with light
I saw a river of stars
dance down the night
I saw a hundred flying horses
streaming through the sky

The poem you just read is taken from a poetry collection with two authors on its cover. Firstly, Jukka Aalho, who is a Finnish writer, TEDx speaker, and full-stack marketer. Secondly, GPT-3, who is an autoregressive language model that uses deep learning to generate text that imitates the way humans write.

As an avid poetry reader (with favorites like H. Martinson, Inger Christensen, and R. Carver), I had to learn more about this cooperation.

Hi Jukka! Please tell me about your background and ambitions as a writer and a marketer!

I’m always looking to try new things, learn something new and have fun while doing it. Both are possible as a writer and as a marketer, but not inevitable.

Please mention three favorite writers (copywriters, non-fiction writers, poets, or novelists)!

I’ve enjoyed tremendously reading Haruki Murakami, the short fiction of Lydia Davis, and the wrapping up of the Wheel of Time by Brandon Sanderson.

How did you get the idea to produce an AI-generated poetry collection?

I tried the beta version of GPT-3 and was astounded by how good it was. I tried generating different genres (articles, poems, fiction …) and realized that poetry was the best fit for me. Even when GPT-3 failed, it was producing thought-provoking poetry.

How did you proceed from a practical point of view?

I set myself a deadline of 24 hours to generate the book. One Saturday morning, I brewed myself a cup of coffee and started banging out poems with GPT-3. Twenty-four hours later, Aum Golly was finished and ready to be shipped to publishers.

I was the weakest link in terms of stamina. I had to take breaks and even sleep (gasp). GPT-3 would’ve gone on tirelessly.

Imagine that you met Pentti Saarikoski or Elmer Diktonius. How would you present your project, and how would you persuade them that this is a useful technique?

I would show them what using GPT-3 is like. We would laugh at the poor quality. And cry at the mediocre. By the end of the night, we’d be hitting each others’ backs and telling ourselves that AI will never replace good old-fashioned human creativity. Then I would reveal that they’re actually not real but rather AI-generated spirits themselves.

What kind of feedback have you received from the current literary arena?

Both good and bad. And totally neutral. Many have found the project to be an interesting trial. Some have said that AI-generated poetry is garbage. Some have said that the poems are pure gold.

Has your project changed your view of creative writing? Do you read texts differently now?

I have a more realistic view of what creativity will look like in the future. Especially when it comes to marketing and commercial texts, the future is already here. If your only goal is to produce as much mediocre content as possible, machines are already much better at it than humans.

Is there a bridge between marketing and poetry, between copywriters and poets? If so, please describe!

Oh yes. Copywriting is poetry with a goal.

There’s a saying that every copywriter has an unfinished manuscript lying in their drawer. I tend to think that every poet has a slogan hidden somewhere in their notebook.

What is your message to writing colleagues?

You’re the best! Writing is a great hobby, and just because machines keep getting better at it, it’s not a reason to stop writing.

Aum Golly (2021) can be purchased online here

Please note: all texts on this blog are produced by me, Olle Bergman, or invited human writers. When robot-written sections are added to serve as examples or to demonstrate a point, this is clearly indicated.