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Friday, September 30, 2022

The Humorous Side of Artificial Intelligence

Humor is what makes humans special. When people try to teach machines humor, the results are at times laughable but not in the intended way. 

What makes humans laugh? Some occasions may be caused by contrary emotional states. Embarrassment, apology or confusion can cause nervous or courtesy laughter. Humans will laugh at jokes or will laugh at a play on words for instance, even though they may be very subtle. Everyone has a different sense of humor. What is funny to one person will go over the head of another. Laughter in some ways, is like human language and what may be hilariously funny in Japan will go over like a lead balloon in France.

Laughter bonds humans through humor. However, despite its prominence in our daily lives, there is little research on how and why we laugh.The study of humor and laughter and its psychological and physiological effects on the human body is called gelotology. The question as it relates to artificial intelligence is; can a sense of humor be taught  to machines?

Humor is a hidden language that we all speak but it is not a learned group reaction. It is more an instinctive behavior programmed by our genes and the societies we live in.  

Tristan Miller, a computer scientist and linguist at Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany says: “Creative language — and humour in particular — is one of the hardest areas for computational intelligence to grasp." 

Miller has analyzed more than 10,000 puns and called the experience torture. “It’s because it relies so much on real-world knowledge — background knowledge and commonsense knowledge. A computer doesn’t have these real-world experiences to call on. Up until recently, a robot or a computer could only know what it was told and could only draw from that knowledge.”

Great strides have been taken in trial and error learning in the science of artificial intelligence, this being one of the fundamental learning strategies employed by humans and animals. It is increasingly being used to teach intelligent machines boosting the flow of ideas between biologists and computer scientists. More studies in the trial and error approach could solve mysteries in animal and human cognition and help develop powerful new algorithms and therefore moving closer to AI being created with an ability to learn humor.

However, as humor is still somewhat  of a mystery in itself, can the trial and error approach be applied to developing humor in AI? Some scientists seem to think so. The following is a headline from Wired.com.  https://www.wired.com/story/comedian-machine-ai-learning-puns/?verso=true

The Comedian Is in the Machine. AI Is Now Learning Puns!
A researcher at Stanford University has created a pun generator that came up with the following groaner, all on it's own. 

"Why did the Greyhound stop? To get a hare cut". 

Her aim is to build AI that is natural and fun to talk to and that can crack jokes or compose a poem or even tell a compelling story. "But getting there," she says. "Runs up against the limits of how AI typically learns." 

Of course, a very common saying is a pun is the lowest form of humor but a machine has to start somewhere. Will AI eventually replace the Ricky Gervais's and Steven Colbert's of the world? Who is to say. 

"People have had some success in defining what would constitute humor," says Abhijit Thatte , Assistant Vice President of Technology and Practice Leader for Artificial Intelligence at Aricent, a global design and engineering firm. "But it has not been been codified yet."

As even full-time stand-up comics would admit, there is no magic formula to produce the perfect joke. Much of what makes us laugh depends on subtle factors such as context or body language. "Sometimes even we humans don't know why a joke is funny," says Thatte.

When it comes to an individual's funny bone, there has to be a really deep understanding of the world in which a person lives, how things work, how their society works and mostly how people in their society work. Humor is indicative of something that is really human and is also intelligent but in it's truly human form, currently outside the abilities of artificial intelligence.


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