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It’s an inventive and counter-intuitive solution to a complicated problem. Google’s AI engine is pretty smart, but one thing it’s not particularly good at is responding in a conversational style. Responses in the Google app, for instance, are very factual and to the point, but its sentences don’t exactly sing. To tackle this problem, researchers have been letting the web of neural networks binge on steamy romance novels for the past few months.

That might not sound like it makes a lot of sense at first, but Andrew Dai, the Google software engineer who is heading up the project, explained to BuzzFeed News that these stories make effective learning tools because they’re all so similar. “Girl falls in love with boy, boy falls in love with a different girl. Romance tragedy,” said Dai. The plots are all essentially the same, the story is just being told with new words each time. That makes a collection of thousands of these stories prime learning material for a growing young artificial intelligence. The unchanging central plot effectively gives the AI system a familiar grounding so that it can focus on how the varied ways that the English language is used in similar contexts.

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Google is planning on using these learned conversational skills to enhance a variety of their products. For example,  about 10% of all Inbox mobile replies are written by Smart Reply, a system that skims your email and drafts simple responses that you can use rather than type them out yourself. This service could greatly benefit from the ability to be more conversational.

So far, the AI has consumed around 2,865 romance novels, and Dai speculates that at this point it could theoretically pick up a pen and start writing erotica on its own. When asked to provide an example, however, researchers declined. Nevertheless, romance writers everywhere may need to start looking for a new career over the next decade.

What are your thoughts regarding this steam AI learning project? Let us know your opinion in the comments below!

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John Dye
I wrote my first word when I was very young. I enjoyed this so much I decided to write many more words.