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A panel from today's SMBC:

This reminded me of my discussion yesterday with Dmitri Tymoczko about automatic composition, so I sent him the panel. His response:

Yes, I see it … “make me a piece that combines the best of Mozart and the Rolling Stones, leading me to accept the necessity of bureaucratic red tape in the functioning of modern society.”

There are several other good jokes in the strip, e.g.


Read the whole thing


  1. Douglas Davidson said,

    November 4, 2015 @ 7:46 pm

    Have it compose a poem — a poem about a haircut!

  2. Ken Miner said,

    November 4, 2015 @ 9:56 pm

    The potential for automatic composition already exists at Arts & Letters Daily with its unintentionally funny leads:

    "Learning from taxidermy. How we look at dead animals is linked to how we see each other."

    “World literature increasingly comprises elitist scholasticism or genre books adapted into movies. Can these forces be reconciled?”

    The majority of them aren’t necessarily funny, but they do seem to reveal a certain desperation for topics on the part of writers and journalists. I take desperation to be a necessary prerequisite for automation.

  3. Keith Ivey said,

    November 4, 2015 @ 10:30 pm

    Thanks, Douglas, I was reminded immediately of the same passage and was just about to search for a reference to it.

  4. popegrutch said,

    November 5, 2015 @ 11:37 am

    Speaking as a librarian, who frequently has to direct people to more or less the types of materials recommended in the first panel, I'm not very scared. If most people could actually articulate their information needs that clearly on the first pass, they could, in fact, find what they want without assistance using a standard library catalog. They cannot, which is why librarians use the "refereence interview" – a process by which a librarian helps someone figure out how to ask for something when they don't actually (consciously) know what they want.
    The classic example I use in training people for the reference desk is:
    Here's what the perfect reference question looks like: "Hi, I'm starting a dog grooming business and I need information on the local market for my business plan."
    Here's what they ask: "Where are the books about dogs?"
    When computers can conduct a reference interview to get from the lower question to the upper one, then I'll start to think about retirement or looking for a different line of work.

  5. Bean said,

    November 5, 2015 @ 2:15 pm

    @popegrutch: It's a bigger problem than libraries. People are universally terrible at asking for what they need from ANYONE because they think they already know what they need.

    A concrete example comes to mind. "Mom, where are the scissors?" "They're in the – wait, why do you suddenly need scissors?" "To cut my brother's hair." "WHY do you need to cut your brother's hair?" "Well, we were wrestling and the gum fell out of my mouth and into his hair and now it's stuck so I was just going to cut it out…" Ah well, why not just ask for help getting the gum out of his hair then, and forget the scissors?? Hopefully in the process of growing up they will figure out to Google "how to get gum out of hair" and not "where are the scissors".

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