As if they didn’t have enough to study, scientists are now trying to figure out what makes something funny. One way to do this is to get a computer to create jokes–something a standup comedian (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show) can do easily, but which is an almost impossible task for even the smartest machine.

In the January 6th edition of the New York Times, Alex Stone quotes computer scientist Julia M. Taylor as saying, "Humor is everywhere in human life. If we want a computational system to communicate with human life, it needs to know how to be funny."

The problem with this, Stone writes, is that to understand humor, "computers need to contend with linguistic sleights like irony, sarcasm, metaphor, idiom and allegory–things that don’t readily translate into ones and zeros.

"The cognitive processes that cause people to snicker at (jokes) are only partly understood, which makes it all the more difficult for computers to mimic them. Unlike, say, chess, which is grounded in a fixed set of rules, there are no hard-and-fast formulas for comedy."

Some people think that Siri’s deadpan replies when they ask their iphone a question are humorous–but is this intentional?

Some of MOTKE’s replies to Whitley’s questions had a kind of deadpan humor as well, such as when asked if he was a machine, he replied, "If I was an intelligent machine, I wouldn’t tell you." Find out MORE of what MOTKE said by comparing the original to the revised version, in which Whitley checked out the Master’s predictions and found an amazing number of them to be TRUE!

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