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The Policeman's Beard is Half-Constructed: Computer Prose and Poetry

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  56 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
The Policeman's Beard Is Half Constructed is a 1984 collection of poems and short prose that was touted as "the first book ever written by a computer."

It is generally agreed that the sophistication claimed for the program was likely exaggerated.

The book's "author," Racter — short for Raconteur — was an artificial intelligence computer program written by William Chamberlain
Paperback, 120 pages
Published October 1st 1984 by Warner Books (NY) (first published January 1st 1983)
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Jun 30, 2010 Šarlo rated it really liked it
The result of this experiment was far more interesting than what I had hoped for, especially considering the release date (1984). My favorite bit (in this case, the part that made me laugh the most) was the "Conversation between Racter and Joan", where the AI promptly tells Joan the following: "Joan, in view of the disgusting fact that you're an artist, listen to this."

I mean, really; how excellent is that?

It would make no sense at all to compare "The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed" to su
Tybalt Maxwell
Feb 22, 2013 Tybalt Maxwell rated it really liked it
The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed is a book of poetry written by a robot named Racter. While the words are randomly generated, the people behind this project did a good job of selecting the pieces that imply Racter having a slight sentience.

The poems all give the impression that Racter is struggling to understand us. While this obviously isn't true, the illusion is powerful enough to make this book an interesting philosophical experience.

It's hard not to feel moved by Racter struggling t
Andrew Bourne
May 16, 2008 Andrew Bourne rated it really liked it
This book was authored in 1983 by a computer--an artificial intelligence program called RACTER. Very eerie at times and very curious:

"Happily and sloppily a skipping jackal watches an aloof crow. This is enthralling. Will the jackal eat the crow? I fantasize about the jackal and the crow, about the crow in the expectations of the jackal."

"Babbitt, along with other enthusiasts, married a runner, and consequently L. Ron Hubbard married Schubert, the confused feeler, himself who was divorcing L. Ro
Jan 22, 2017 Cori rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, poetry, technology
What intrigued me: I don't remember where I heard about this book, but it has been on my to-read shelf for a while.

What I liked: I liked the introduction where they explained the process of enabling a computer to create prose. I also enjoyed the illustrations that enhanced the work.

What I didn't like: I didn't love the stories. The inputs were limited and the repetition was distracting in the longer pieces. That wasn't as apparent in the shorter works. Lots of lettuce, psychiatrists, and spooki
Oct 24, 2014 David rated it did not like it
Shelves: big-white-square
Really funny. Although there seems to be an idea that the computer had a bit of help? An example of the madness::

"Helene speedily brushed her straight braid. She slowly ironed her brassiere, and John, aloof, dazzling John, commenced singing quizzically. Mathew yearned to look into Helene's nightgown while Wendy pondered her dreams (maniacal leopards were swallowing loony oboists). Helene started by brushing her braid: She was a maid, much to John's happiness, but oboists, even loony oboists, wer
Dec 20, 2007 Brian rated it liked it
Dubiously touted as "The First Book Ever Written by a Computer," this 1984 collection of poems & prose owes an unacknowledged debt to the human programmers who wrote Racter, the software that is this book's author.

It's a pretty book, and fun to browse, but I'm glad I didn't pay $40 for a used copy. Instead, I downloaded a free, high-quality PDF of the book here:

I love this book's title.
May 24, 2013 Gwern rated it liked it
Summary: the dreams quote in the Wikipedia article really was the most evocative part of the collection. Most of it wasn't worth reading, and extremely suspiciously sophisticated and likely written by Chamberlain, which reduces the novelty value. (I read the online version.)
Samuel Thompson
Apr 01, 2013 Samuel Thompson rated it it was amazing
Even if Racter's mind is mostly deterministic and narrow, he sometimes becomes dangerously close to our own abstractions, to a point where you can catch yourself feeling sympathy. This is a simple and weird book, but it makes its point very sharply (and you've got to admit, those illustrations are just too good).
Apr 17, 2012 Calm rated it really liked it

Barbie loves steak and Ken.

Seriously, this book is only just short of amazing. An experiment in artificial consciousness.
Sep 06, 2015 Nafiza rated it it was ok
Good grief.
Alice Urchin
Feb 23, 2013 Alice Urchin rated it really liked it
Pretty impressive work, considering it isn't written by a human.
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