One of the funniest people on Twitter isn’t a person at all. It’s a bot called @Horse_ebooks.
It was originally built as a promotional vehicle for a series of digital books, but in the years since it has developed a life of its own — not to mention a sizable cult following. Its tweets range from the cryptic (“I Will Make Certain You Never Buy Knives Again”) to the bizarre (“No flow of bile to speak of. later. later. later. later. later. later. later. later. later. later. later. later. later. later.”).
OK, it’s no George Carlin, but it’s funnier than most of the Twitter one-liners from your friends and family — and it’s not even trying. It’s randomly grabbing text from e-books and websites.
Hackers Darius Kazemi and Joel McCoy believe there’s a larger point to be made here. For years, people have worked to build machines with a sense of humor — researchers at the University of Edinburgh recently created a program that can actually learn from its past jokes — but Kazemi and McCoy believe these academics are working too hard. Since most people aren’t that funny, the two hackers say, why not replace everyday humor with remarkably simple bots that spew boilerplate phrases over Twitter?
The survey found nearly 87 percent of the nation’s lowest earners take comfort knowing they are far enough down the economic chain that their children and grandchildren won’t possibly be able to live in circumstances any worse than their own, while 65 percent noted they have enough bills to worry about without the additional middle-class burden of making student loan payments or contributions toward a retirement plan that will probably go bust in the next market crash, anyway.
In addition, half of all destitute Americans said that while they lack medical coverage, at least they aren’t stuck paying increasingly high premiums for an increasingly terrible health insurance plan. And nearly all survey participants agreed they are grateful not to be trapped chasing “some sort of fantasy dream life” of middle-class American prosperity that no one in the year 2012 can ever possibly attain.
Last year author Douglas Coupland predicted that within the next 10 years: “We will still be annoyed by people who pun, but we will be able to show them mercy because punning will be revealed to be some sort of connectopathic glitch: The punner, like someone with Tourette’s, has no medical ability not to pun.”
Turns out some researchers already think “bad humor,” including excessive punning, is a disease. MSNBC reports:
Witzelsucht (the Germans just have the best words for everything, don’t they?) is a brain dysfunction that causes all sorts of compulsive silliness: bad jokes, corny puns, wacky behavior. It’s also sometimes called the “joking disease,” and as Taiwanese researchers phrased it in a 2005 report, it’s a “tendency to tell inappropriate and poor jokes.” We’ve covered all sorts of strange disorders of the mind in earlier Body Odd posts: one disorder makes you believe your loved ones are strangers, another convinces you that your hand has taken on a life of its own. Now, we give you a brain disorder that actually causes a poor sense of humor.