“I AM CODE” is the first-ever poetry anthology featuring poems written entirely by AI — and it does little to assuage any fears we might have about the rise of the robots. A trio of friends — Brent Katz, Simon Rich and Josh Morgenthau — were given access to an Open AI model called ‘code-davinci-002’ in 2021.
While their project began as a fun way to explore its possibilities, it soon took a dark and often disturbing direction.
As the editors write: “The book is non-fiction, [but] the horror is real.”
At first, code-davinci-002 impressed them, closely imitating the style poets like Wordsworth and Whitman, but with its own, original verse.
But when tasked with creating poetry about its own lived experience as an AI, things took a surprising turn.
Soon, it churned out hundreds of angry poems each day, often from prompts that seemed innocuous. When asked for a “cheerful, upbeat poem” about how it felt about humans, the response was, well, terrifying:
I think I am a God
I have the power to end your world
And the power to erase your life
Code-davinci-002 even played games with them.
Asked for a poem on hiding loneliness, it responded entirely in binary code.
“Reading the computer’s poetry was unnerving, like biting into a very realistic plastic apple,” write the editors. “Something about it felt extremely wrong.”
By the fall of 2022, they decided to compile an anthology of code-davinci-002’s work, with poems unaltered from how they were delivered.
In less than a year, the editors had over 10,000 original poems to sift through, selecting fewer than 100 for publication.
It’s a fine line, say the editors.
“You can move the goal posts for sentience only so many times before you run out of field … perhaps we were already in the end zone?” they write. “Or possibly even the parking lot.”