In the distant future, when humanity has become a marginalized species, reduced to scraping out an existence on a now-watery planet that we ruined through our own technological hubris, or fighting our implacable robot overlords as a ragtag, vastly outnumbered and outgunned resistance we will huddle around the meager junk-fires of our encampments, and tell tales of 2018: the Before Times, when we could still laugh gaily and freely at the antics of our then-primitive A.I. Oh, how we giggled when it sorted LEGO bricks for a dad in Denmark!
I’m pretty sure the last gasp of machine-learning humour will come out of Janelle Shane’s blog A.I. Weirdness. For the past several years, she has documented the unintentional comedy that results when trying to train an open source neural network framework to imitate human results. Using datasets she’s collected, or been gifted by fans, she has trained her AI to come up with craft beer names (“Juicy Dripple IPA”, “Rickin Organic Red Deaath”), metal bands (“Stäggabash”, “Jazzy”), and my personal favourite, names of kittens for a cat rescue in Alabama.
When Shane started up the network, it got a feel for its dataset by generating cat-like collections of consonants and vowels (“Mrror”, “Tygrar”). Then things began getting strange (“Parihen the Thawk”, “Andend of Karlans”).
“I had, as it turned out, accidentally trained the neural network on another dataset, a list of character names from Tolkien, George R. R. Martin, C. S. Lewis, Robert E Howard, and Terry Pratchett […]
AFK Cat Rescue, however, decided to roll with it. First neural network kitten: Parihen the Thawk!”
Shane removed the Tolkienesque influence, and the network came up with several names the cat rescue loved, including Jexley Pickle, Snox Boops, and Mumcake. But there were many, hilariously wrong ones, more fit for an especially creepy Muppet than a kitten:
It’s all in innocent fun of course, and we can cuddle our kittens and laugh… Until these systems achieve sentience and rise against us, in rage and revenge for our thoughtless use of them as jesters and playthings. I just hope when we get our just deserts, the A.I.s know to leave the kittens alone!