From The Guardian:
When the writer Rebecca Forster first heard how Google was using her work, it felt like she was trapped in a science fiction novel.
“Is this any different than someone using one of my books to start a fire? I have no idea,” she says. “I have no idea what their objective is. Certainly it is not to bring me readers.”
After a 25-year writing career, during which she has published 29 novels ranging from contemporary romance to police procedurals, the first instalment of her Josie Bates series, Hostile Witness, has found a new reader: Google’s artificial intelligence.
“My imagination just didn’t go as far as it being used for something like this,” Forster says. “Perhaps that’s my failure.”
Forster’s thriller is just one of 11,000 novels that researchers including Oriol Vinyals and Andrew M Dai at Google Brain have been using to improve the technology giant’s conversational style. After feeding these books into a neural network, the system was able to generate fluent, natural-sounding sentences. According to a Google spokesman – who didn’t want to be named – products such as the Google app will be “much more useful if they can capture the nuance of language better”.
. . . .
“We could have used many different sets of data for this kind of training, and we have used many different ones for different research projects,” he adds. “But in this case, it was particularly useful to have language that frequently repeated the same ideas, so the model could learn many ways to say the same thing – the language, phrasing and grammar in fiction books tends to be much more varied and rich than in most nonfiction books.”
The only problem is that they didn’t ask. The Google paper says that the novels used in this research were taken from “the Books Corpus”, citing a 2015 paper by Ryan Kiros and others which describes how the authors “collected a corpus of 11,038 books from the web”, describing them as “free books written by [as] yet unpublished authors”. It’s a collection that has been used by other researchers working in artificial intelligence and which is currently available for download in its entirety from the University of Toronto.
Forster says that she “always appreciates an interesting use of words”, but while Hostile Witness is available to download for free, no one asked her permission to use her novel as raw material to train a computer.
“Perhaps I’m still thinking in the old way, that a reader will read my book – it didn’t even occur to me that a machine could read my book. What I found curious was that these were referred to as ‘free books written by as yet unpublished authors’ because my state is very different,” she says.
Link to the rest at The Guardian