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Stimulus funds humor computer

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A Northwestern University professor has received $712,883 in stimulus funds to program computers in the art of telling jokes.

Listed at #36 in the recent Summertime Blues: Top 100 Stimulus Projects that Give Taxpayers the Blues, the grant will allow researcher Kristian Hammond to fund the grad student program which seeks to mimic human behavior in order to better serve future search technology.

The idea behind the project is to create software armed with the ability to think like the human mind and this technology will eventually replace modern search engines. “We’re modeling human cognitive skills on a machine,” Hammond said. “This is hard-core computer engineering. … I’m not really that funny of a guy.”

No immediate reaction from comedians regarding the threat of their eventual extinction, although word is that most agree the only industry personality in need of worry will be Carlos Mencia.

When asked for a demonstration of the technology thus far, Northwestern researchers allowed us to ask multiple questions, spoken directly to the computer as if we were having a conversation with a human being. We chose to stick with the classics …


Q.  Knock, knock.

A.  Who’s there?

Q.  Orange.

A.  Orange who?

Q.  Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?

A.  You didn’t say banana, you said orange.

Q.  Okay. Um, how about this. The Pope, Elvis and Sarah Palin walk into a bar.

A.  Elvis is dead. It would not be possible for him to walk.

Q.  Never mind. Ask me what’s the most important thing about comedy.

A. (Six minute, 42-second pause for reboot) Timing.

Q.  Why did the chicken cross the road?

A.  HTTP Error 404 – File or Directory not found.

Q.  Here’s a classic. Pardon me, sir, how do I get to Carnegie Hall?”

A. Head west on Clark St toward Chicago Ave  118 ft
2. Take the 1st left onto Chicago Ave  1.6 mi
3. Turn left at South Blvd  0.4 mi
4. Continue straight onto Sheridan Rd  2.3 mi
5. Continue onto N Broadway  0.9 mi
6. Turn left at W Hollywood Ave  0.2 mi
7. Continue onto N Lake Shore Dr  0.9 mi
8. Continue onto US-41 S/N Lake Shore Dr  8.9 mi
9. Take the exit onto I-55 S toward St Louis/I-90/I-94  1.1 mi
10. Take exit 293B for I-90 E/I-94 E toward Indiana  0.5 mi
11. Merge onto I-90 Express E/I-94 Express E  2.1 mi
12. Take the exit onto I-90 E/I-94 E
Continue to follow I-90 E. Partial toll road
Passing through Indiana
Entering Ohio  308 mi
13. Continue straight onto I-80 E Toll road  76.2 mi
14. Take exit 218 for I-80 E Toll road  0.9 mi
15. Keep left at the fork, follow signs for Mahoning Ave/OH-18 and merge onto I-80 E. Partial toll road
Passing through Pennsylvania
Entering New Jersey  374 mi
16. Slight left at I-280 E. Partial toll road  17.3 mi
17. Take exit 16E toward Lincoln Tunnel. Toll road  0.7 mi
18. Merge onto I-95 N. Partial toll road  3.5 mi
19. Take exit 16E toward Lincoln Tunnel/NJ-3. Toll road  0.1 mi
20. Keep right at the fork, follow signs for Lincoln Tunnel/New York City and merge onto NJ-495 E. Partial toll road
Entering New York  3.5 mi
21. Continue onto Lincoln Tunnel. Toll road  0.8 mi
22. Take the exit toward W 40th St. Partial toll road  0.2 mi
23. Turn right at W 40th St  0.2 mi
24. Turn left at 8th Ave  0.8 mi
25. Turn right at W 57th St  0.2 mi
26. Take the 2nd right onto 7th Ave

Destination will be on the left  148 ft

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