Obstacles In The Way Of AI Getting An Uncanny Sense Of Humor

There’s another stumbling block for computer-generated humor: Computers excel in working with simple, fixed data sets. It’s why most joke-generating programs have so far focused on puns and other wordplay, since finite word lists and specific definitions are easy for computers to scan and parse. But most comedy trades in concepts that aren’t simple or fixed at all. The best comedy mines a wide world of attitudes, assumptions, morals, and taboos, most of which aren’t even mentioned in the joke, just subtly hinted at. So if we aim to have computers truly “get” jokes—much less to come up with their own and know when and to whom to tell them—we’re essentially going to have upload into them all of humanity. Plus, whether you’re partial to the incongruity theory, the benign violation theory, or some other concept about what makes things funny, it seems pretty clear that good comedy breaks the rules and revels in the peculiar. And that’s exactly the sort of stuff computer programs aren’t very good at.

This excerpt is from an article in Wired entitled It’s Comedian vs. Computer in a Battle for Humor Supremacy. The article also includes images of comics produced by Manatee, Northwestern's joke-telling computer, which no longer seems to be live. Learn more about it here.

 One of Manatee's comic humor attempts mentioned in the Wired article. Photo by  Allen .

One of Manatee's comic humor attempts mentioned in the Wired article. Photo by Allen.