Monday, April 04, 2011

The Automatic Comedian

Ladies and gentleman, after the best part of a year, I'm proud to present ... The Automatic Comedian ! Unflappable, incomprehensible, and most importantly nigh-on indestructible, the Automatic Comedian will continue to yell things at you that you think you should be able to understand, long after you've struggled out of a sweaty, stinky comedy club and trundled all the way home to weep into your keyboard, distraught at your failure to employ an effective heckle.

I've been trying to build the Automatic Comedian for the best part of a year, since I first bumped into TedPad, a joke devised to create persuasive excerpts from TED presentations that turned out to be meaningless bilge.  What would be better, I thought, than to do the same, but using an actual comedian for the joke?

Sadly, set-up-and-punchlines are harder to generate mechanically than you might think, despite the number of comedians with a mechanical delivery and jokes that appear to have been churned out by a machine.  Or my l33t hacking skillz just don't cut it with the deconstruction of language.  My Automatic Comedian does no more, for now, apart from spew bitterness about other comedians, complain about the stupidity of his audience, and demand you pay attention to him.

I guess that gets us about half way there.

If you really want to, you can read about how I put together version 1.0 here. And here. And here and here and here and here, and here.  Or to understand better how it works, you can read the page I wrote to explain what it does.  I hope that doesn't ruin the thrill by uncovering the apparatus behind it.

If you're still interested, you might like to know about versions 2.0 and 3.0 that I've planned.  2.0 should be able to switch conversational style from a 21st century comedian to an 18th century female novelist, and back again via Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and anyone else whose written works are in the public domain.  3.0 will engage in proper conversation, and should reach my vision of hundreds of argumentative computers, ranting at one another across the internet without any human interaction, so we can finally get on and live meaningful lives.

(Version 4.0 of the Automatic Comedian, which just shouts 'garlic bread!' and flings confetti, may be produced, depending on whether we get seed capital from some big transatlantic VCs.  Version 5.0 will probably travel back into the past and write for Family Guy.)

2.0 works using Markov chains, which I hope will reduce the labour intensive nature of 1.0 to manageable proportions.  3.0 will do that, plus use the principles demonstrated first by Eliza, to simulate some sense of intelligence.  I'm not saying when they're ship, but hopefully by the end of 2011.  I do have a few other things to achieve this year too...

Anyway, I encourage you to go talk to the Automatic Comedian.  Everything he says (for the first million times) should be something special, just for you.


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