"I Spent an Interesting Evening with a Grain of Salt"

The above title is written by Mark V. Shaney, an obstreperous program which invaded the bulletin board called Net.Singles several years ago. Mark absorbed postings from the board, and fabricated articles that were brilliant(ly nonsense). Mark was a product of the 80's when computer scientists were feverously investigating the possibility of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Artificial Intelligence is a branch of computer science which attempts to build programs (or robotics) that behave in the level of human intelligence. And Mark was one of these programs which could spit out human like sentences based on simple heuristics.

"I am going to introduce a new topic: does anyone have any suggestions? Anybody else have any comments experience on or about mixed race couples, married or otherwise, discrimination forwards or reverse, and eye shadow? This is probably the origin of make-ups, though it is worth reading, let alone judge another person for reading it or not? Ye gods!"

Mark was designed from very simple rules. It merely looked at pairs of words, and guessed the next one from a probability table. The probability table was constructed from articles posted on the bulletin board. Because the table reflected the usage of words in that board, Mark was able to generate sentences that appeared to be valid. Since only a pair of words were used, it was not able to produce globally valid sentences. Nevertheless, the fact that such a simple program could produce human like sentences is very interesting; it shows that how (sometimes) simple principles could produce amazing results!

To have some fun myself, I wrote a program in Java for random text synthesis. The following is one of its synthesized paragraph, with source from The Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of Independence of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and formidable to tyrants only. He has abdicated Government here by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be tried for pretended offences: For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to them and the State remaining in the Name, and by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same absolute rule into these Colonies: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our emigration and settlement here. We have Petitioned for Redress in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the present King of Great Britain is and ought ...