Computers Can Write Jokes Now, Too

These joke-writing computers are so funny, you may forget to laugh.

Computers Can Write Jokes Now, Too

Taking another step in their ongoing quest to steal all the jobs in the world, a pair of computer scientists at the University of Edinburgh have created a computer program that can generate original jokes in the timeless, sexist, “I like my women like I like my coffee…” format.


As the scientists note in their original paper, this isn’t the first joke-telling robot. In 2011 some University of Washington scientists wrote a program that could correctly add “that’s what she said” after a sentence 72% of the time, which is just below the percentage your brother-in-law says it. But that program had to be trained on a set of human-generated jokes, a process that is, um, long and hard. (…)

The Edinburgh informatics scientists instead trained their program on large amounts of largely unannotated language data. Their model produced jokes like

“I like my women like I like my camera … ready to flash.”
“I like my relationships like I like my source… open.”
“I like my coffee like I like my war… cold.”

These jokes were judged chuckle-worthy by humans just 16% of the time, which compares to 33% of human-generated jokes in the format, because these kinds of jokes just aren’t that funny.

Artificial humor generation may seem like a frivolous pursuit, but it’s actually a seriously hard problem in AI. It’s part of natural language processing, a field of study aimed at eventually producing the next generation of Siri-like software that can communicate ever more fluidly with people. Apparently we like our computers like we like our bones… funny.

[Image: Flickr user sandman_kk]

About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.