This work is the result of an inquiry into the process of conversation based purely on statistical probability. The transcript actively spilling forth from the two receipt printers is a hypothetical dialogue between the two classical economists Karl Marx and Adam Smith.
Each sentence is constructed from the statistical probability within a source text that any given word follows from another. The two source text used are Karl Marx, Capital, Volume II: The Process of Circulation of Capital, and Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Book II: Of the Nature, Accumulation, and Employment of Stock.
Starting from scratch the first word is randomly chosen based on its frequency within the source text. Words with a higher frequency of occurrence are more likely to be chosen then words appearing less often.
The next word in the sentence is then randomly chosen from all the words that follow the proceeding word. This choice is informed by the frequency of those words occurring after the preceding word/s within the entirety of the source text. Then the next word is chosen based on the preceding two words, and so on. It is important to note that this specific instance of the system is limited to a maximum resolution of three preceding words. This process continues until the sentence ends. A sentence is ended when there is no word within the source that follows from the preceding word/s, or given a series of words there is a high probability that a full stop, or equivalent symbol, occurs next in the source.
The system of conversation is very limited. There are only two agents within any conversation. The agents take turns in talking. When one agent talks, the other listens until the end. There are no interruptions.
One agent is randomly chosen to begin the conversation. It constructs a sentence from scratch as describe above. When the sentence is finished the listening agent responds.
A response is constructed by searching the sentence received from the other agent for words or series of words that occur within its own source text, or vocabulary. It then selects between these based on the probability of potential words that follow within its source text. Words or series of words that have the largest amount of possible continuation are more likely to be selected then those with fewer. Once selected, the agent then chooses the first word of its response using the procedure described above.
This process is endless.
This work has also been reproduced as a 180 page book, “Karl Marx and Adam Smith: Dialogue. An inquiry into conversation through statistical probability“. Indefinite edition.
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Discourse won the Non-Aquisitive Prize at the 2010 Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award.