While many people use computers for things that are slightly less than politically correct—unless bukkake somehow became P.C. when I wasn’t looking–the offensive content is always a product of human intervention. The device itself is rarely a source of anything, offensive or otherwise. At least until scientists from the University of Edinburgh designed a computer program that creates its own brand of off-color humor. Unfortunately, they haven’t given it a snazzy stage name just yet, but just wait, this will start headlining comedy clubs across the country before you know it.
The way the computer constructs its jokes is by making comparative statements between objects that have no obvious traits in common, followed by a surprising outcome. While some of the bits are bizarre and silly in ways that aren’t necessarily sexist, once it starts comparing men and women to things, all bets are off. Case in point: “I like my men like I like my acorns…buried.” A computer wrote that joke. And it’s pretty damned funny. And Dark. And that’s how I like my comedy and my women. (Don’t tell my very Caucasian wife.)
Dr. David Matthews, a computer scientist and one of the developers behind the program, will present the computer publicly at the Association for Computational Linguistics annual meeting in Bulgaria. Doesn’t that sound like a hoot? When tested on volunteers, Matthews said that there was indeed laughter, even though it wasn’t as strong as with a human comedian. To be fair, these kinds of jokes died in the 1980s, but you’ll still be surprised just how strange the computer’s sense of humor gets. Here are a few of the more awesome jokes it came up with.
“I like my women like I like my gas…natural.” Excellent, and not even remotely sexist. Enhancements are meant for electronics, not human beings.
“I like my men like I like my monoxide…odorless.” It could have written that one while sitting in the garage with the car running. Perhaps it has issues with depression.
One of the jokes that the story considered politically correct seems much more sexual than all the others. “I like my relationships like I like my source…open.”
Hook a few computers up together and sparks start flying. You guys remember when Supercomputer Watson was censored for making rather obscene comments? Well fuck that guy.
“Computers have an advantage over people in that they can process masses of information,” Matthews said. “So we fed computers a wealth of material from which they extracted creative and unusual word combinations to fit our joke template. The holy grail for machine-generated comedy would be to include cultural references, but these are very hard to capture.” Maybe this guy could write a routine for the golfing robot.
A joke like, “I like my fish like I like my text…raw,” may be culturally important to penguins, but not human beings. Though it does make me crave sushi.
For some really politically incorrect humor, you never have to look further than the late, great George Carlin. No computer will ever match his wit, will, or judgment.