Everyone talks about AI’s potential to kill us, but so far it can’t even kill on the comedy stage.
On a recent Saturday night, Jin and several other amateur comedians performed short stand-up comedy and then delivered four jokes, inviting the crowd to judge which jokes came from a human brain and which were generated by robots. ChatGPT mostly found dad jokes taken from the internet, making it easy to identify a generic punchline from an original.
You’re hitting that ChatGPT pain point by potentially taking people’s work, but laughing because the AI is still so bad, says comedian Geulah Finman, 31. The show felt like a release.
The AI humor tests that are being replicated in other comedy clubs and by researchers are vital in helping to better understand the technology, as well as the potential risks it poses to us. Experts say one of AI’s biggest dangers is its potential to better mimic humans and replicate them, from emotional responses to telling jokes.
While voice assistants like Siri and Alexa have long spoken punchlines, those are preprogrammed and non-interactive. ChatGPT and other bots have the ability to scrape the internet and potentially come up with their own creative versions.
One such prank appeared in a research paper this month by two German researchers. Why did the man put his money in the blender? He wanted to make time fly. He didn’t make sense, even if he did show some creative flair.
But more than 90 percent of the more than 1,000 jokes ChatGPT spat out in the experiment were the same 25 jokes, most of them built on puns and puns. Fittingly, two of the common jokes highlighted by the researchers Why did the tomato turn red? Why did he see the salad dressing and why don’t scientists trust atoms? Because They Make Everything Up were also in the rotation at the San Francisco show.
ChatGPT hasn’t solved computational humor yet, but it can be a big step towards fun machines, wrote University of Darmstadt researchers Sophie Jentzsch and Kristian Kersting in their paper.
Companies that specialize in cutting-edge technology are seeing their stock prices skyrocket as the demand for their products soars. City leaders in San Francisco, home to many AI start-ups, are hoping the AI gold rush could revive the local tech scene.
An analysis by The Washington Post said a snapshot showed 15 million websites informed some high-profile English-speaking AI. Models like ChatGPT are helping software engineers create computer code and can even pass the bar exam. But as Hollywood writers poke the potential for technology to disrupt their jobs, the demonstrations and research imply that technology may take a while to catch up.
Naomi Fitter, an assistant professor of robotics at Oregon State University, studies how robots might help humans in healthcare settings, such as guiding people through physical therapy exercises. As of 2018, Fitter has written stand-up comedy routines for a robot she named Jon and sent him on tour in Los Angeles.
Jon the Robot uses artificial intelligence to determine where to jump next in his human-written script. Jon can tell that a joke failed, says Fitter, and then make a joke about the failure of the joke, attempting to repair the interaction. He might tease the audience by trying to guess why he didn’t like the joke, says Fitter. Most of the time, when the robot tried to salvage the joke, he improved the audience’s reaction, an outcome Fitter finds promising.
You’ve been a big audience, Jon tells an audience in a 2020 YouTube video. If you like me, book me in and help me get your jobs.
Humor generally requires a careful blend of the corny and the absurd, and so far ChatGPT lacks the brevity and creativity to be funny, comedy experts say. Except, of course, when he’s hallucinating or volunteering inaccurate information.
The humor comes from how bad the AI is, says Victor Trevio, a 33-year-old engineer and stand-up comedian who splits his time between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Trevio produces a show where comedians do stand-up sets while playing with an AI image generator on stage.
It’s fun to see what the AI image generator will guess about someone, like putting them in a 1960s scene or giving them an extra hand, he says. It’s like a playground for me.
When David Isaacs, president of the screen and TV writing division at the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, asked ChatGPT to write a scene from a movie where a man has trouble telling a woman that loves her, the program spat out three pages without much flair or really a curve, Isaacs said. He noted that it could be a way out of writer’s block.
Still, it takes me somewhere, she added. It took me out of the tyranny of the open page.
Some comedy writers see the need for artificial intelligence to master the art of levity. Years ago, reading about the loneliness epidemic, former late night TV and sitcom writer Joe Toplyn thought that eventually people might be more accepting of artificial companions, and those companions would need a sense of humor.
Toplyn, an engineering and applied physics graduate, used AI tools to build a prank chatbot he called Witscript. He imagines a more concise and slightly absurd version of ChatGPT. Like Isaacs, Toplyn sees potential in misfires.
It might give you an idea for another joke if Witscript discovers a joke that’s not there at all, he says.
AI is a frequent topic of conversation in the Bay Area, so it’s only natural that it made it to the comedy stage.
Stroy Moyd, a 35-year-old comedian, came up with the idea for an AI-themed comedy night dubbed LaughGPT after hearing audience members on another show talk about the technology being advertised. LaughGPT sold out faster and with less effort than Moyd usually puts into marketing, he said.
It was just an experiment, Moyd said ahead of recent back-to-back nightly shows, which have attracted tech enthusiasts in their 20s to 60s.
When it comes time to test ChatGPT’s punch lines in San Francisco, comedian Finman delivers a generic joke voice that’s a bit nasal and shaky, letting audiences know a joke isn’t original.
What’s the matter with airplane food? Finman said. The flavors are so simple. And the prices are through the roof.
Towards the end of the show, the audience is finally at a loss.
My girlfriend broke up with me for making too many Linkin Park references, says comedian Josef Anolin, 42, as he wraps up his set. But in the end, it doesn’t even matter.
The crowd roars louder than it has all night.
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