The first thing that pops into a person’s head trying to answer the question is: no way, no how, no siree, Bob! There is no chance a machine would be able to match a human’s creativity levels, the improvisations, and the nuances of the language, all the while maintaining context. However, the issue is much more complex than it seems at first glance. Let’s break it down.
First of all, we have to define the parameters of what we might consider a book. Are we talking about textbooks that contain, or are at least supposed to contain, nothing but cold facts, like history books? Perhaps we are talking about love novels, Russian-level realism, or abstract post-modern plays? Granted, in the last category, sometimes it is very difficult to figure out whether the work was written by a regular human, a computer, a drug addict, or a cat using predictive text.
All joking aside, let us contain this question to novels. Sounds simple enough, they are a broad category of literature, as well as fairly simple to construct. Now, what about a quality book? Anyone can write gibberish, so there is no reason to think that AI could do it too.
There are books in Japan that have been co-written by programs. The most famous novel of the recent years in that domain is The Day A Computer Writes A Novel. A human team came up with templates for beginning a sentence, the general plot, and the characters. The program was there to fill the massive blanks. In other words, it was a hardcore game of mad-libs.
This story would not really amount to much, except that it passed the first round while competing for the Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award in 2016. So, with proper guidance, AI is more than capable of handling a task of writing. On the other hand, we are here to determine whether AI can write a book by itself.
You can find some of the works written by AI with a little bit of training and/or using a database of specific writers. One of the websites that connect people that train the machines to write and lets them post their results is literai. They feature a tutorial section as well, where you can download the necessary tools to train AI to write. The results are usually somewhere between hilarious and trippy. I cracked up at a story that involves Vladimir Lenin and George Washington, not only because of the story but also because a freshman studying English literature would almost certainly get carried away analyzing it.
Here’s the long and the short of it – AI can’t write a good book, at least not for now. The way it is progressing, in a few decades, we are likely to see mass-produced novels at affordable prices, slowly killing true literature in the process. For now, however, this is still a human territory. We are perfectly capable or writing awesome books as well as unbelievable trash ourselves, thank you very much.