Computers Learning Humor Is No Joke

Can a computer have a sense of humor? On reflection, this question may seem paradoxical given that humor is such an intrinsically human trait. While some primates produce laughter (Gervais & Wilson, 2005; Preuschoft & Hooff, 1997), humans are the only known species that use humor for making others laugh. Furthermore, every known human civilization also has had at least some form of humor for making others laugh (Caron, 2002; Gervais & Wilson, 2005). Given this innately and intrinsically human skill, it might seem implausible for a machine to have any form of a sense of humor. In this article, we explore several computational techniques that have been used to detect and generate humor, and how these systems can help us improve our humor abilities and gain more insights into this uniquely human trait.


I’ve been interested in this space for a while as a benchmark of AI. Humor requires a deep understanding of social rules, as well as having the cleverness to consciously break them.

That said, ask any standup comedian, most humor is trial and error. I’m sure machines will be able to capitalize on that much sooner than the author imagines.


That’s one of the things that excites me the most about GPT-3. It often gets (and generates) humor and sarcasm. So it’s wonderful proof that GPT-3 is not only attuned what it is saying, but also how it’ll be interpreted by others. Very very exciting to see how well it does in these “formerly impossible” areas.