What Programmed AI Humor And New Comedians Have In Common

I stumbled across a very interesting article about AI (artificial intelligence) lacking the ability to understand and effectively initiate any sort of humor or comedy in a way that even remotely comes close to that which a human can easily do:

No AI in humor: R2-D2 walks into a bar, doesn’t get the joke

What fascinates me the most is level of cluelessness that many comedy/humor researchers and AI developers have when it comes to understanding why a robot can’t simply be “programmed” to be funny in any sort of truly meaningful or advanced way.

The exact same thing can be said of new comedians (and of many who attempt to “teach” comedy as well) who are under the false impression that producing stand-up comedy material that actually works can be obtained by using some sort of “put peg A into slot B” input/out approach.

So in this article I want to discuss exactly why AI will never be able to be “programmed” to be funny (at least not using the input/output approach that dominates that arena at this point in time).

Then I will tie this information into why most new comedians usually don’t get how comedy actually works and tend to flop on stage — using the same sort of approach used to attempt to program AI to be “funny”.

How Humans Develop Their Sense Of Humor And Comedy Talent

In order to understand why AI can’t be “programmed” to have noteworthy sense of humor or significant comedy talent, one need only look at the process that a human goes through in order to develop a sense of humor/comedy talent.

Required Factors For Effective Use Of Comedy And Humor

On the most basic level, the foundation of a person’s sense of humor (along with the resulting comedy talent they have) involves the continuous collection, accumulation and the communication of reference points (stuff you learn, know, observe, pontificate about, opine about, experience, blah, blah, blah).

What cannot be duplicated when it comes to attempting to “program” a sense of humor into AI are the extensive, lengthy and complex conditions under which a human acquires, understands and ultimately uses the reference points they have at their disposal, specifically:

The Experience Factor. The reference points a person accumulates during their lifetime are much more than mere input/output data — they are gathered as a direct result of extensive experience that starts very early in life.

This experience is gained through countless verbal interactions with others who are also able to express their sense of humor as well.

During this process, humans go through a sort of “built in ” trial and error process where they not only gather their knowledge and reference points, but they also learn from their interactions with others what works to garner laughs and what does not in relation to the reference points being used.

This aspect is unavailable to AI via programming — whatever reference points they have been “programmed” with, regardless of how extensive the associated data may be lacks the trial and error experience of personal interaction needed to not only “connect the dots” between reference points, but to discover and learn what works and what doesn’t when it comes to laughs.

But there is a bit more involved than that…

The Emotion Factor. All the reference points that are the foundation of the human sense of humor are not just “static data” that cannot simply be effectively connected in an A + B = C manner to produce a laughter response. There are emotional underpinnings involved with virtually everything a human experiences, knows, learns and understands.

It is this emotional aspect and the expression of such that provides the human sense of humor context, amplification, subtlety and impact.

A great example of this is the use of sarcasm, which requires certain voice tone, voice inflection and facial expression attributes in addition to the words being used in order to even be recognized as sarcasm.

While there may be a way to program AI to “react” with the appearance of emotion — fear, doubt, joy, pain, wonder, etc., there is no way to connect that sort of programming relative to the associated experiences needed for an appropriate, accurate and genuine sense of humor response.

In other words, there is no algorithm or any amount of programming that can replicate human experience or the wide spectrum of emotions associated with those countless experiences (along with the reference points gathered as a result of that experience).

But wait, there’s more…



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