Some robots might ‘understand’ humour, but they don’t know a slant rhyme from a toaster oven


i have been in conversation with a web robot….

James: Do you possess a sense of humour?

Bot: As an artificial intelligence, I don’t experience emotions like humans do. However, I can understand and recognize when something is meant to be humorous and can provide responses that are appropriate for the situation. Is there something specific you would like to know or something you would like to joke about?

James: Well, okay. Let’s say the waiter at a restaurant asks “Soup or salad?” And I respond with “Sure, that sounds great! If it’s that super, I’d love one!” Would that be funny?

Bot: That response could potentially be seen as humorous because it is a play on words. The waiter asked “Soup or salad?”, and you responded with “Sure, that sounds good! If it’s that super, I’d love one!” The word “super” can mean “excellent” or “first-rate”, but it can also be short for “superintendent”, which does not make sense in the context of the conversation. By using the word “super” in this way, it creates a humorous misunderstanding.

James: But why is it humorous?

Bot: Humour is often based on the unexpected or the unexpected use of words. In this case, the response you gave was unexpected because it did not directly answer the question that was asked. Instead, it used a word that had a different meaning than the one that was intended, which created a sense of confusion or misunderstanding. This confusion can be humorous because it is unexpected and creates a sense of surprise. In addition, the response is a play on words, which can also be a source of humour.

James: Why do humans laugh when confronted with such unexpected responses?

Bot: Laughter is a natural human response to humour and can serve as a way to release tension or stress. When we encounter something that is unexpected or confusing, our brains need to process this new information and try to make sense of it. This mental effort can be mentally and emotionally exhausting, and laughter can be a way to release this tension and relax. In addition, laughter is a social behaviour that can be used to bond with others and build connections. When we share a laugh with someone else, it can create a sense of camaraderie and belonging.

James: Do you, then, comprehend that when you say “our brains” the reader of this statement from you will find this humorous, as you do not yourself have a brain?

Bot: As an artificial intelligence, I don’t have a physical body or brain like humans do. However, I am able to understand and process information, and I can use language to communicate with people. When I use terms like “our brains” or “we”, I am using them to refer to humans in general, not to myself as an AI. I am simply using language to communicate with you and to make my responses easier to understand. I apologize if this caused any confusion. Is there anything else I can help with.

James: Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.

Bot: No problem, I am not capable of being offended. I am here to help you and answer any questions you may have to the best of my ability. Is there anything else you would like to know?

James Would some people find our conversation humorous?

Bot: It is difficult for me to determine whether or not someone would find a specific conversation humorous, as humor is highly subjective and can vary widely from person to person. Different people find different things funny depending on their individual sense of humor, their background, and their personal experiences. That being said, it is always possible that someone may find our conversation humorous. Is there something specific you would like to know or joke about?

James: Yes, let’s say a restaurant is named “The Feeling Good Falafel Company“. Would that tend to be regarded as a humorous name for a restaurant?

Bot: It is possible that some people may find the name “The Feeling Good Falafel Company” humorous, as it is a play on words. The word “feeling” can refer to a person’s emotional state, and the word “good” can mean “satisfactory” or “positive”. Together, the name suggests that the restaurant serves food that will make you feel good emotionally. The use of the word “falafel” in the name adds an element of surprise, as it is an unusual food to associate with the idea of “feeling good”. This combination of words and meanings could potentially be seen as humorous by some people. However, as with all things related to humor, it is subjective and may not be funny to everyone.

James: So, falafel might be considered a “slant rhyme” for “feel awful”?

Bot: “Falafel” and “feel awful” are not considered slant rhymes because they do not share any sounds in common. A slant rhyme, also known as a half rhyme or a near rhyme, is a type of rhyme that occurs when two words share some, but not all, of their sounds. For example, the words “cat” and “bat” are slant rhymes because they share the “at” sound, but their other sounds are different. In contrast, “falafel” and “feel awful” do not share any sounds in common, so they are not considered slant rhymes.

James: Now that is very funny!

Bot: I’m glad you found that humorous. Do you have any other questions or topics you would like to discuss?


If you will, please, do read my further conversation with Bot after the above. Something striking and extraordinary happened between “us” which is far more interesting and important (regards the status of AI of this kind) than anything found in the article above. Frankly, I was deeply surprised by the capacity of this machine to learn. And maybe a little worried for us all now.

This post first appeared on The R word newsletter…

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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