A blogoland retreat for undercover linguists

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I, Jokebot

My sister sent me this list of Jokes Made by Robots, for Robots. Here's a sample:

"Waiter! Waiter! What's this robot doing in my soup?"
"It looks like he's performing human tasks twice as well, because he knows no fear or pain."

Knock knock.
Who's there?
A robot.
Oh, shit.

Little Susie tosses a clock out the window. A robot inquires, "Why did you do that?" She replies, "I wanted to see time fly!" The robot says, "Ah ... A perfect subject for elimination," and shoots her with a laser beam through the face.

Most of these are familiar set-ups with their punch lines replaced by random stereotypes about robots. My question is, why do these robots seem to enjoy stereotype-laden character-driven humor (the "It's funny 'cause it's true!" variety) so much?

One answer may be that it's one of the few types they'll understand, since humor that involves language ambiguity (like puns, double entendre's, etc.) will be so utterly lost on them. The reason is that robots will have a natural tendency to behave like computers, communicating unambiguously at the "message level", universally agreeing upon one meaning per message. This will make them more efficient communicators than us humans, and as a bonus eliminate the need for robot lawyers.

This and other factors (like greater strength, agility, and the ability to focus for days without sleeping) will create a striking gap in performance statistics. It won't go unnoticed. Something will be done about it. It won't end well for the human race. After our tragic end, robot comedians will use the story as nightly fodder:

"Hey, remember humans? Remember how they used to change lightbulbs? Talk about suboptimal! And that's why they were all shortly out of a job, judged to be a collective waste of space and resources, and placed on a short list of 'to-be-annihilated'!"


[A friend of mine informs me that these jokes were posted to Boing Boing about a month ago. Check out the comment thread for more humor (and music too) from our their future.]