The Iron Law of AI

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Today's SMBC:

Mouseover title: "The other day I was really freaked out that a computer could generate faces of people who DON'T REALLY EXIST, only to later realize painters have been doing this for several millenia."

The Aftercomic:

NLP is falling behind — we do have translation algorithms that turn gibberish into surrealist poetry, and systems that can generate pseudo-shakespeare etc. — but we obviously need systems that can turn surrealist poetry into David Brooks Op-Eds, and then into romance novels, and then back again.


  1. Rick Rubenstein said,

    July 19, 2019 @ 5:39 pm

    I believe the goal of turning David Brooks Op-Eds into gibberish has at least been achieved.

  2. astrange said,

    July 20, 2019 @ 3:28 am

    I did read an NLP paper this year about translating restaurant reviews on Yelp from positive to negative, but also from 18-24 to 65+.

    It sort of works, but the methods we have for computer vision (CNNs) turn out to have a lot more "intrinsic" understanding of a picture than a network could ever have an "intrinsic" understanding of text by looking at each character. It takes them a long time to understand Yelp if they have to learn English at the same time.

  3. Jerry Friedman said,

    July 20, 2019 @ 7:43 am

    In the '90s I heard it said that word processors weren't speeding up office work because people spent too much time messing around with their features.

  4. AntC said,

    July 20, 2019 @ 9:32 am

    translating restaurant reviews on Yelp from positive to negative,

    Restaurant reviews on Yelp (translated from MSM to English) are my go-to whenever somebody claims NLP is achieving anything. Typically I get no idea whether the reviewer evaluates positive or negative or what; whether they ate or drank anything or just looked at the decor; or indeed why Yelp thinks that what it's producing is any kind of English.

    Never mind NLP "falling behind" Yelp hasn't even got to the starting line.

  5. Abel Emmanuel said,

    July 20, 2019 @ 11:54 am

    I once came across a website with an AI that makes music from random images.

  6. Steve Bacher said,

    July 21, 2019 @ 3:50 pm

    Did the mouseover really misspell "millennia"? Apparently so. Disappointing.

  7. Steve Bacher said,

    July 21, 2019 @ 3:51 pm

    Any practical/effective natural language translator will need to interpret misnegations correctly.

  8. Rodger C said,

    July 23, 2019 @ 4:29 pm

    Steve Bacher: I once wrote "millennia" and a copyeditor changed it to "millenia."

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