Pun Generation Via Neural Nets

Neural nets, they do everything these days. Including making us groan.

A pun generator might not sound like serious work for an artificial intelligence researcher—more the sort of thing knocked out over the weekend to delight the labmates come Monday. But for He He, who designed just that during her postdoc at Stanford, it’s an entry point to a devilish problem in machine learning. He’s aim is to build AI that’s natural and fun to talk to—bots that don’t just read us the news or tell us the weather, but can crack jokes or compose a poem, even tell a compelling story. But getting there, she says, runs up against the limits of how AI typically learns...

A well-crafted joke teeters at the edge of coherency without wading into nonsense, He says, and neural networks simply don’t have the sense to strike that balance. Besides, the whole point of creativity is to be, well, novel. “Even if we had a long list of puns it could learn from, that would miss the point,” she says.

Instead, He and her team, which included Nanyun Peng and Percy Liang, tried to give their AI some creative wit, using insights from humor theory.

Science fiction readers know that author William Tenn wrote about a robot comedian in his 1951 short story The Jester. He even included a discussion about a variable modifier (for fine tuning variations on a joke) and a meson filter to fine tune the laughs (snickers versus belly laughs).

I'm having a little bit of trouble buying this story, given that the investigator's name is He He. However.

Via Wired

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