Monday, January 24, 2011

Ramon Llull's theological sentence generator

The roots of artificial intelligence and digital text generation go back to the Middle Ages:
Ramon Llull’s Ars Magna provides a mechanical process for generating true statements and even proofs...
Llull provides four figures in the form of circular or tabular diagrams which recombine the elements of this table in different ways... the first figure produces combinations of absolute principles – ‘Wisdom is Power’, say. The second figure applies the relative principles – ‘Angels are different from elements’. The third brings in the questions – ‘Where is virtue final?’. The fourth figure is perhaps the most exciting: it take the form of a circular table which is included in the book as a paper wheel which can be rotated to read off results...
The kind of thinking going on here is not, it seems to me, all that different from what goes into the creation of simple sentence-generating programs today, and it represents a remarkable intellectual feat.

Llull's figure 1
Similar algorithms can be applied to produce sappy love letters or financial reports.

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