The internet has brought us many things. Some of them are good. Some of them are that weird thing where people do their makeup on Facebook live and then try to get you to buy the products. But I think one of the internet’s greatest contributions to society is humor.
I imagine most of you reading this are at least old enough to remember a time when the internet wasn’t that popular. Or at least, we didn’t carry it around with us in our pockets. You had to make sure no one in your family was on the phone before you logged on to AIM where you could post angsty song lyrics as your away message and then navigate to Facebook, which didn’t have a news feed. It was just people’s profiles. Also, “flair.”
Where was I? Oh, the internet is funny. Let me make an argument here: before the internet, humor was a limited, communal commodity. There were funny things, obviously. But most everyone, and I’m speaking from my very U.S.-centric perspective here, knew about the same funny things. If you watched The Office at 9 p.m. on Thursdays on NBC, you knew about a lot of funny stuff. You learned about “that’s what she said” jokes and you could apply them to many situations. You learned about encasing someone’s stapler in jello. Those things are still funny. But people mainly thought the same sort of things were funny. The internet as we know it today has opened a Pandora’s box of humor. There is something for everyone, and I think our senses of humor have become much more niche and personal because of it.
This is all to say that I’m about to tell you about two very funny things. They are funny, at least, to me. They are things that can make me laugh spontaneously and uncontrollably at any moment. Like, real laughs. (Did you know your brain can tell the difference?) These might be very personal funny things. Maybe you will not laugh. If not, please imagine me sitting here writing this post, giggling and chuckling and gaspy-breath laughing. Maybe that will be funny.
The first item is this article from Gawker, in which an intrepid young journalist, a pursuer of truth and justice, decides to test out whether the Endless Appetizers™ at TGI Fridays were indeed Endless. She sits there all day eating mozzarella sticks. I read this in 2014 when it was published. I read it in a car because I was on a road trip with two friends to Washington, D.C., and we took turns reading sections out loud and laughing so hard we thought we might have to pull over. And then a couple of weeks ago, it resurfaced! A Facebook friend who is in college posted it, and I am very glad it is still being read by the next generation of internet users. (Five years is practically a generation in internet years, you know.) Here’s just a taste to whet your appetite for the rest.
What’s a neural network? This is a great question. I’m probably about to present some less-than-accurate information because I am decidedly a technology user, not a technology creator. My coding skills are zilch and I can’t understand most of the articles written about it. So let’s go with this: a neural network is a type of artificial intelligence. It’s a computer program that can “learn” something if you “teach” it—that is, if you input a whole ton of data (say, all action movie titles on IMDB), it detects patterns and can create its own new content (like, Die Blood: Mission to Money 2).
This can become extremely funny because the network isn’t always that good at making stuff up, mostly because the English language is hard and also because a computer doesn’t have a brain.
The very first set of neural network material I read was a list of recipe titles. Janelle Shane runs a Tumblr called AI Weirdness, and I happened upon this post. Apparently I always discover unfailingly funny things when I’m on a mode of transport involving the word “Washington” because this time I was in a houseboat on the coast of the San Juan islands in Washington state. It was there that I laughed until I had six-pack abs about the names of recipes this computer came up with. Some of them clearly just use the most common words in recipes. I eat “Chocolate Chips with Chocolate Chips” about once a week for dessert, but I’m less familiar with “Chocolate Chicken Chicken Cake.”
But then it gets really wacky. The computer puts together strange things and even makes up some foods, like Swamp Peef. I also read these out loud to my companions when I could manage to speak between laughing, and I’d suggest you attempt to make it through the list as well.
Every time I read it, a different recipe sets me off. But I think the king has to be “Crockpot Cold Water,” which is a phrase I think of and proceed to giggle about once a month.
Shane went on to have the network write entire recipes, which end up like this cookie recipe, which instructs you to put cereal lime butter, a single dictionary, and grated orange juice into your bowl. Don’t forget to store the cookies by hours or oil size.
The network will plan your whole meal, down to the cocktails! Mmmm, vodka and vodka.
And what goes better with drinking than college classes! The neural network is here for your scheduling needs. My Survivery skills are a little rusty—anyone want to share a textbook with me?
While you’re at college, start exercising your civil right to complain and write a few petitions! Because as you know, dogs are not a thing!! and lettuce fries are delicious.
You also might be in need of some help in the relationship department. Shane taught the network to write pickup lines! “If I were to ask you out?” is actually quite polite. “I don’t know you” is definitely the most honest.
Interested in teaching it some of your favorite things and making me laugh even more? Shane uses Textgenrnn, char-rnn, and gpt-2-colab. If any words on those pages are intelligible to you, have at it!
Abby Zwart (’13) teaches high school English in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She spends her free time making lists of books she should read, cooking, and managing the post calvin.