Posted by Jason Polak on 29. March 2018 · Write a comment · Categories: probability · Tags:

It is said that Markov originally invented Markov processes to understand how some letters follow other letters in poetry.

Recall that a Markov process is a probability random process that models moving from one state to another state, where the possible states is some set. There is a fixed probability from moving from each state to each other state.

Writing sentences could be modeled with a Markov process. To do so, we can take in some text, and compute the experimental frequency that one word will follow another. Then using a random number generator, we can output new sentences generated from this Markov process.

This doesn’t use any deep theory but nevertheless is fun to try. It’s not hard to write a program like this, and it would be interesting to do so, but for demonstration purposes I will now use a premade one: dadadodo. It’s available for Linux. Basically, you run it like this:

This command will generate N sentences in a Markov process, using computed transition probabilities from the file inputfile.txt. According to dadadodo’s documentation,

Sometimes these sentences are nonsense, but sometimes they cut right through to the heart of the matter and reveal hidden meanings.

Here is one amusing one generated from my PhD thesis:

I am grateful to do not actually integral.

Sounds an awful lot like “I am grateful to not do the actual integral,” which is funny because I computed a rather tricky p-adic integral in my thesis. Here’s one feeding in a cover letter I wrote in my current job application process:

I believe I have the next generation of my a number theory.

Sounds a lot like “I am the next generation of number theory.” Here is a pretty funny one I got from feeding in a job posting:

Traditionally, enterprises have spent countless hours over the latest technology.

Now that sounds about right! The University of Melbourne sends out an email with news of interest to staff. Here is a random sentence that appeared from dadadodo using this news text:

The Research Fellowships on experiences of the bike racks.

I should apply for one of those.

Most of the outputted sentences are nonsense but are not too far away from meaningful, if you think about it.

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