When you’re on the internet, eat your vegetables.

Computer scientists at the University of Washington recently created a program that can understand when it’s funny to say “that’s what she said.”

Chloe Kiddon and Yuriy Brun, the two behind this project, call the program DEviaNT—Double Entendre  via Noun Transfer. It basically rates the nouns in a given sentence based on how funny it would be to respond to any given sentence with “that’s what she said.” They think it’s a pretty useful step in giving computers the capability to actually understand human language.

This is all good and funny, and it really does have some good uses. Giving the computer the capability to categorize words into themes, to help decide how to answer, will help give computers the ability to actually comprehend what’s going on in a conversation, rather than just algorithmically deciding which response to use from a pre-decided list. Cool stuff. Cool enough to get them into this year’s Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics.

But it’s important to distinguish the difference between two things: being cool and being silly. On the one hand, they took a joke and did a lot of research and work, and made something useful out of it. Cool.

On the other hand, we’ve got enough memes and lolcats upinhurr. We have entire websites dedicated to logging these jokes. For crying out loud. Enough advice dog.

Now I’m not saying that the work these folks has done is bad. Not by any means. This is pretty much the epitome of what it means to be a college student: mixing smart with awesome since freshman year. Nice. But it’s important to have some discipline.

Food for thought:

Listen for times where it would be funny to say
“that’s what she said.”

That is, you know how it’s okay to have junk food? Junk food has its own place on the food pyramid, in fact. So grab some Fritos. But remember that the other food groups are even more important? Yeah. So eat your vegetables. Or do what these two U-Dub students did: they mixed the junk food with the vegetables.

Which is awesome.


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