The Latest Research From the Michael Scott Academy of Computer Science

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

This is huge.

Chloé Kiddon and Yuriy Brun, two computer scientists at the University of Washington, have developed a system for recognising a particular type of double entendre – the “that’s what she said” joke, in which seemingly innocent sentences can be transformed into lewd utterances by appending just four short words.

The pair describe the “TWSS problem” as recognising when it is funny to follow a sentence with “that’s what she said” – they give “Don’t you think these buns are a little too big for this meat?” as one example. The equivalent in the UK is appending sentences with “as the actress said to the bishop” and is used in the same way.

Automating this process means identifying sentences that contain potential euphemisms and follow a particular structure – a “hard natural language understanding problem”, say the researchers. Kiddon and Brun began by analysing two different bodies of text – one containing 1.5 million erotic sentences, and another with 57,000 from standard literature.

They then evaluated nouns, adjectives and verbs with a “sexiness” function to determine whether a sentence is a potential TWSS. Examples of nouns with a high sexiness function are “rod” and “meat”, while raunchy adjectives are “hot” and “wet”.

Their automated system, known as Double Entendre via Noun Transfer or DEviaNT, rates sentences for their TWSS potential by looking for particular elements such as nouns that can be interpreted in multiple ways. The researchers trained DEviaNT by gathering jokes from twssstories.com and non-TWSS text from sites such as wikiquote.org…

…The system turned out to be around 70% accurate, but the pair say this is deceptively low because much of the training data did not consist of TWSS jokes, and with a more even data set it could achieve 99.5% precision.

Alfred Hitchcock makes a TWSS joke:

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21 Responses to “The Latest Research From the Michael Scott Academy of Computer Science”

  1. #1 |  kriznol | 

    “This is huge.”

    That’s what she said.

  2. #2 |  James J.B. | 

    Finally a scientific initiative that I can get behind

  3. #3 |  Nipplemancer | 

    With the automation of dick jokes I will become obsolete. :(

  4. #4 |  qwints | 

    As amazing as this research is, I can’t help being paranoid about its potential for repression. Imagine a system analyzing sentences for a ‘disloyalness’ function allowing the government to actually spy on every e-mail or phone call.

  5. #5 |  bbartlog | 

    ‘…with a more even data set it could achieve 99.5% precision.’
    Making a claim like this without actually having done it is total horseshit. You probably couldn’t even get two people to achieve 99.5% agreement on whether a given sentence would or would not be an actual joke when ‘…that’s what she said’ is appended.
    70% success is not a sign of much AI going on, either. It’s an interesting project but the results are underwhelming.

  6. #6 |  Joe | 

    Talking about jokes: LA’s finest in action!

    Hey wait, that is real?

    I am sure Dunphy and Patterico can explain it all.

  7. #7 |  B | 

    Well, I think this is pretty impressive, but I can barely program my thermostat…

  8. #8 |  Alex | 

    “70% success is not a sign of much AI going on, either. It’s an interesting project but the results are underwhelming.”

    Why do you say that? I think a human wouldn’t do much better, and this sort of thinking is just about the only type left that computers still aren’t better or just as good at.

  9. #9 |  Elliot | 

    “This is huge.”

    TWSS

  10. #10 |  Elliot | 

    Curse you, kriznol!

  11. #11 |  jppatter | 

    So the UK version of “that’s what she said” is “as the actress said to the bishop”??? The British can be so weird.

  12. #12 |  parse | 

    The system turned out to be around 70% accurate, but the pair say this is deceptively low because much of the training data did not consist of TWSS jokes, and with a more even data set it could achieve 99.5% precision.

    What criteria did they use to determine whether the computer was correct? As bbartlog suggested, I don’t think there’s an objective criteria that determines whether a particular line is made humorous by adding a TWSS. When people are in the right mood, adding TWSS after anything at all can provoke laughter.

  13. #13 |  bbartlog | 

    @Alex: I say 70% sucks because presumably 50% can be achieved by random guessing (if the test involves half ‘funny’ and half ‘non-funny’ sentences). So 70% is about 2/5 of the way to perfect. Also they describe their algorithm (weighting words for sexiness) and guess what, it doesn’t sound like the computer is parsing anything, it’s just scoring words by points.

    ‘I think a human wouldn’t do much better’

    Some human must be able to do a hell of a lot better, else how would they score the test? For a human this isn’t rocket science, though as I noted above there would surely be disagreements as the task is slightly ambiguous.

    ‘Just about the only type left that computers still aren’t better or just as good at.’

    They still are bad at language translation, most kinds of poker, Go (last I checked), speech recognition and some other things. Certainly they’re getting there! But the thing is, this piece of work is not actually an advance in AI. Word sexiness scores? Not even going to parse or use bigrams or attempt to extract meaning? It’s only good as a press release.

  14. #14 |  Eric | 

    ‘The pair describe the “TWSS problem” as recognising when it is funny to follow a sentence with “that’s what she said”’

    The answer is always ‘never.’

  15. #15 |  Bernard | 

    It’s an irony that as clever programmers and advancers in artificial intelligence move computers ever closer to passing the Turing test there’s a concurrent process by which reality tv and text messaging language move the average human ever closer to failing it.

  16. #16 |  Bernard | 

    -r

  17. #17 |  Robert | 

    I hope no tax dollars are going into this…

  18. #18 |  jb | 

    “I hope no tax dollars are going into this…”

    That’s what she said!

  19. #19 |  Rune | 

    @jppatter

    So the UK version of “that’s what she said” is “as the actress said to the bishop”??? The British can be so weird.

    Well, only if they are the same age as Alfred Hitchcock. The quote says more about the writer than it does of Brits.

  20. #20 |  Tim C | 

    @Eric “Never”

    BS. I was just in bathroom at work…one of the soap things is broken. I was in front of sink with working soap thing. Someone else says “excuse me” and I let him use that sink, saying “Oh you don’t want to use the broken one? Ridiculous!” He replied, “I just don’t feel like pumping it and pumping it only to have a dribble come out.” (I am not making this up.) The reply was far too easy, but as Carlin said, “F you, I think it’s hilarious.”

  21. #21 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me, as the actress said to the bishop.

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