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Joke’s on you, AI: A look into machines and humor




Pepper robots by SoftBank Robotics are seen in an exhibitor's suite during CES 2018 in Las Vegas on January 11, 2018.
Pepper robots by SoftBank Robotics are seen in an exhibitor's suite during CES 2018 in Las Vegas on January 11, 2018.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

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Humor and artificial intelligence is a growing field for academics.

When people try to teach machines what’s funny, the results are at times laughable but not in the way intended. And when it comes to humor, the people who study it — sometimes until all laughs are beaten out of it — say context is key.

“Creative language — and humor in particular — is one of the hardest areas for computational intelligence to grasp,” said  Tristan Miller, who has analyzed more than 10,000 puns and called it 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 draw on. It only knows what you tell it and what it draws from.”

Some computers can generate and understand puns — the most basic humor — without help from humans because puns are based on different meanings of similar-sounding words.

So can AI learn to tell jokes? Is humor innately human? And will artificial intelligence ever have a place in comedy?

 

With files from the Associated Press

Guest:

Allison Bishop, assistant professor of computer science at Columbia University and stand-up comedian