The Atlantic

When an AI Goes Full Jack Kerouac

A computer has written a “novel” narrating its own cross-country road trip.
Source: Christiana Caro

On March 25, 2017, a black Cadillac with a white-domed surveillance camera attached to its trunk departed Brooklyn for New Orleans. An old GPS unit was fastened atop the roof. Inside, a microphone dangled from the ceiling. Wires from all three devices fed into Ross Goodwin’s Razer Blade laptop, itself hooked up to a humble receipt printer. This, Goodwin hoped, was the apparatus that was going to produce the next American road-trip novel.

A former ghostwriter for the Obama administration, Goodwin describes himself as “a writer of writers.” Using neural networks, he generates , , and, now, literary travel fiction. I first encountered his work when his algorithms transformed the Senate’s 2014 torture report . In , his master’s thesis at NYU, Goodwin loaded his backpack with devices (a compass, a punch clock, and a camera) that fed their data into long short-term memory (LSTM) neural networks as he walked around the city, churning out weird associative poetry. A sample: “All the time the sun / Is wheeling out of a dark bright ground.” So, when a machine hacker in Biloxi finished

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