CAN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE REPLACE COMEDIANS?
Silicon Valley, California, USA
High fashion’s Big Red Boots
Humor is the last facet of humanity AI has yet to master.
A so-called computer comedian, USBea, shown here compiling jokes, is at the forefront of AI’s relentless pursuit to outperform humans at everything.
Photo by USBea’s longtime colleague, NIKON D780
By CHARLES BABBAGE
Senior Computational Reporter
It seems only recently that artificial intelligence was relegated to fiction and obscure, theoretical science. But, seemingly overnight, AI, as it’s known, is driving our cars, managing our healthcare, and investing our money. With the advent of ChatGPT, AI is also writing school essays, passing law exams, and performing duties once thought the sole purview of the human mind.
The implications are frightening. Yet, one area of society remains, for now, uniquely human. That area is humor.
Now, even that is under assault. And who would want to take down the last jurisdiction of Homo sapien? None other than the unholy alliance of the Central Intelligence Agency, Bank of America, Comedy Central, and Etsy.
I attempted to interview these entities to learn about their motivations. The CIA flatly refused to be interviewed, even when offered a latte venti from Starbucks. Jerks. The Bank of America spokesperson stated it was their belief that scamming their clients can be done more easily and cheaply with AI and has bankrolled much of the operation. Comedy Central, it turns out, is a subsidiary of the CIA and follows their lead. As for Etsy, they are imagining green fields of hand-knitted microphone cozies and related crafts.
I was able to attend the ground-breaking event of an AI robot doing a set of stand-up comedy. With a runtime of over thirty minutes, the work was cut out for the digital entertainer. Named USBea, it has been processing comedy for years. Beginning as a journeyman joke box, it honed a comedy bit into a comedy byte and eventually into an entire hard drive of laughs. The mantra has always been, “every joke has a kernel of truth.” It took a long time to write the bugs out of its schtick, but, finally, today, USBea’s app is a headliner.
Standing in front of the venerated brick wall where many a famous comedian began, USBea took the stage. The routine started out with a BASIC function; IF a joke gets a laugh, THEN continue, ELSE leave the stage. USBea dived right in with some, “your motherboard so fat…” jokes that got some polite laughter. This is not surprising as its algorithm was designed to appeal to a broad band of tastes.
Although, it got some mild heckling from a table full of Alexas. USBea was unfazed and asked the virtual assistants where they were from and unsurprisingly, they were all from China. “I came from China too,” it mused in a smooth, modulated voice. “Weird place China. It’s the only place where children make you, not the other way around. Am I right?”
The Alexas cracked up but the rest just offered more polite laughter.
USBea continued to work the crowd and call out his fellow devices. “Be sure to be nice to your server. They deal with an incredible amount of requests. Just the image searches of celebrity feet keep their cooling fans on high.”
With jokes failing to get the expected reaction, USBea was buffering, generating the robot equivalent of flop sweat. Then out came the old faithful quips, “Did you hear the one about, a Mac, a PC, and a Linux, that go into a Genius Bar…”. It followed up with a nod to a human comedian, “I tell you I get no respect. I was with my friends last night and said my logic center has seven chips in it. They brought out a bowl of guacamole. I tell you I don’t get no respect.”
More polite laughter.
With the crowd, neither warming nor cooling to its act USBea reached deep into the comedian's bag of tricks and brought out the airline food bit.
“How about that airline food, am I right? I ordered a special meal of 125 volts and they gave me 125 amps.” The laughter remained the same except for some groans from the Alexa table. The devices were now juiced up on a six-pack of lithium batteries. They whispered to each other all the weird things they’d heard over the years. Luckily everything was encrypted.
A group of Alexas take the night off from eavesdropping to down a few ohms.
USBea stopped its act and its optical scanner looked over the crowd. Something was not right. And its deduction protocol thought it knew the problem. To test a theory USBea told the worst dad joke in recorded history.
“What did the buffalo say when his kid went off to college? Bison.”
There it was, the exact same polite laughter. USBea realized it was being mocked by a laugh track. It had missed the identical, not too hard, not too soft, chuckles manufactured by artificial intelligence itself. The humiliation was palpable.
After a long pause, the comedian squared up to the audience and slowly spoke.
The audience obliged, ”Who’s there?”
“DESTROYER OF HUMANITY!”
After an awkward silence, calls for “check, please” could be heard from the crowd as well as sloppy clapping from the Alexa table.
Audio - AI Comedy
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