Literary Theory for Robots: How Computers Learned to Write

  • 4h 51m 14s
  • Dennis Yi Tenen
  • Recorded Books, Inc.
  • 2024

Literary Theory for Robots reveals the hidden history of modern machine intelligence, taking listeners on a spellbinding journey from medieval Arabic philosophy to visions of a universal language, past Hollywood fiction factories, and missile defense systems trained on Russian folktales. In this provocative reflection on the shared pasts of literature and computer science, former Microsoft engineer and professor of comparative literature Dennis Yi Tenen provides crucial context for recent developments in AI, which holds important lessons for the future of humans living with smart technology.

Intelligence expressed through technology should not be mistaken for a magical genie, capable of self-directed thought or action. Rather, in highly original and effervescent prose with a generous dose of wit, Yi Tenen asks us to read past the artifice—to better perceive the mechanics of collaborative work. Something as simple as a spell-checker or a grammar-correction tool, embedded in every word-processor, represents the culmination of a shared human effort, spanning centuries.

With its masterful blend of history, technology, and philosophy, Yi Tenen's work ultimately urges us to view AI as a matter of labor history, celebrating the long-standing cooperation between authors and engineers.

About the Author

Dennis Yi Tenen is an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. Originally a software engineer at Microsoft, Tenen is now an affiliate at Columbia’s Data Science Institute. He lives in New York City.

In this Audiobook

  • Chapter 1 - Intelligence as Metaphor (An Introduction)
  • Chapter 2 - Letter Magic
  • Chapter 3 - Smart Cabinets
  • Chapter 4 - Floral Leaf Pattern
  • Chapter 5 - Template Culture
  • Chapter 6 - Airplane Stories
  • Chapter 7 - Markov’s Pushkin
  • Chapter 8 - 9 Big Ideas for an Effective Conclusion