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Your Wit Is My Command

Your Wit Is My Command

For much of its history, AI was a scientific discipline defined more by its portrayal in science fiction than by its actual technical achievements. Real AI systems are now catching up to their fictional counterparts, and are as likely to be seen in news headlines as on the big screen. Yet as AI outperforms people on tasks that were once considered yardsticks of human intelligence, one area of human experience still remains relatively unchallenged by technology: our sense of humour.

This is not for want of trying, as this book will show. The true nature of humour has intrigued scholars for millennia, but AI researchers can now go one step further than philosophers, linguists and psychologists once could: by building computer systems with a sense of humour, capable of appreciating the jokes of human users or even of generating jokes of their own, we can turn academic theories into practical realities that amuse, explain, provoke and delight.

This book uses the concepts and achievements of AI to explore what it means to have a sense of humour, and moreover, to understand what it is to not have a sense of humour. It challenges the archetype of the rigidly humourless machine in popular culture, to celebrate what science fiction gets right and to learn from what it frequently gets wrong. It makes a case for the necessity of a truly computational understanding of humour, to better understand ourselves and to better construct machines that are more flexible, more understanding, and more willing to laugh at their own limitations.

Readers can sample the first two chapters here