BEING A METAFICTIONY FABLE ABOUT A STORYTELLING CONTEST BETWEEN TWO ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE CONSTRUCTS VYING FOR THE INAUGURAL HOFSTADTER PRIZE FOR MACHINE-WRITTEN NARRATIVE
Cheap Complex Devices tells the story of how John Compton Sundman came to edit and publish a short machine-written novella called Bees, or The Floating Point Error, the sole remaining artifact of a contest sponsored by the Society for Analytical Engines. The book contains Sundman’s introduction, the complete text of the allegedly machine-written novella, and an explanatory essay (“Notes on the Source Code”) about the contest written by the committee members of the Society.
Readers have expressed doubts about Sundman’s believability, suggesting, for example, that the “Society” and (hence the contest) is Sundman’s invention. Others have gone so far as to suggest that Cheap Complex Devices is merely the output from the damaged brain of Todd Griffith (a character in John F.X. Sundman’s novel Acts of the Apostles) as modulated by a computer built around a bug-ridden floating point board.