Laughter is the Best Medicine

Heather Knight: Silicon-based comedy

Some of the greatest innovations and developments in the world often happen at the intersection of two fields. So tonight I’d like to tell you about the intersection that I’m most excited about at this very moment, which is entertainment and robotics. So if we’re trying to make robots that can be more expressive and that can connect better with us in society, maybe we should look to some of the human professionals of artificial emotion and personality that occur in the dramatic arts. I’m also interested in creating new technologies for the arts and to attract people to science and technology. Some people in the last decade or two have started creating artwork with technology. With my new venture, Marilyn Monrobot, I would like to use art to create tech. (Laughter) So we’re based in New York City. And if you’re a performer that wants to collaborate with an adorable robot, or if you have a robot that needs entertainment representation, please contact me, the Bot-Agent. The bot, our rising celebrity, also has his own Twitter account: @robotinthewild. I’d like to introduce you to one of our first robots, Data. He’s named after the Star Trek character. I think he’s going to be super popular. We’ve got the robot — in his head is a database of a lot of jokes. Now each of these jokes is labeled with certain attributes. So it knows something about the subject; it knows about the length. It knows how much it’s moving. And so it’s going to try to watch your response. I actually have no idea what my robot is going to do today. (Laughter) It can also learn from you about the quality of its jokes and cater things, sort of like Netflix-style, over longer-term to different communities or audiences, children versus adults, different cultures. You can learn something from the robot about the community that you’re in. And also I can use each one of you as the acting coach to our future robot companions. Some of you in this middle section — you have red/green paddles. If you like what’s going on, show the green. If you don’t like the subject or the performance, you can hold the red. Now don’t be shy. It’s just a robot. It doesn’t have feelings … yet. (Laughter) And the rest of you, you still count, you still matter. There’s also a microphone that’s listening to the aggregate laughter and applause and booing — I hope not — to help make some of its next decisions. Right, so, let the robot stand-up comedy begin. Data: Hello TEDWomen. It’s an honor to be here. (Laughter) (Applause) You guys are looking good out there. Ready for some jokes? Audience: Yeah. Data: Here’s the first one. Right, so, a doctor says to his patient, “I have bad news and worse news. The bad news is that you only have 24 hours to live.” “That’s terrible,” said the patient. “How can the news possibly be worse?” “I’ve been trying to contact you since yesterday.” (Laughter) (Applause) The Swiss have an interesting army. Five hundred years without a war. Heather Knight: He’s talking about the Swiss. Data: Pretty lucky for them. Ever see that little Swiss Army knife they have to fight with? “Come on buddy, I have the toe clippers right here. You get past me, the guy behind me has a spoon.” (Laughter) HK: He’s a French robot. Data: A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods. One of them falls to the ground. He does not seem to be breathing. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls 911. He gasps to the operator, “My friend is dead. What can I do?” The operator says, “Just take it easy. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, and the operator hears a shot. The guy’s voice comes back on the line, “Okay, now what?” (Laughter) (Applause) Question: Why is television called a medium? Anyone? Because it’s neither rare nor well done. But to be completely honest with you, I kind of love television. Any of you like television? Audience: Yes. Data: I find it incredibly educational. Actually, as soon as someone turns it on, I go into the other room and read. (Laughter) That’s all for now. Was that okay for my first time? (Applause) You’ve been a great audience. Thank you. HK: Yay. (Applause) So this is actually the first time we’ve ever done live audience feedback to a performance. So thank you all for being a part of it. There’s a lot more to come. And we hope to learn a lot about robot expression. Thank you very much. (Applause)

99 thoughts on “Heather Knight: Silicon-based comedy

  1. @Ko252

    Quite contrary to the popular belief, we humans do posses intelligence. However, we are not driven by it. In order to have a functioning artificial intelligence that can survive and prosper in the universe, it needs to have some kind of artificial "emotions" too to drive them (call them "protocol programming" or whatever). Otherwise it wouldn't do anything.

  2. @khatack Correction: some humans do posses intelligence. And no, you don't need emotions to thrive. Look for instance at viruses.

  3. @Ko252

    Yes, but then again, they do not posses intelligence either. It's even controversial whether or not they should even be considered living organisms. Any creature complex enough to posses self-awareness of some sort needs some kind of emotion or other driving force in order to function.

  4. this robot is actually a meta-joke….telling jokes without inflection and stage presence sucks the humour out of any joke with HILARIOUS efficiency

  5. @khatack Define intelligence. It is actually not controversial whether they are living organism or not, since they are defined as non-living. Ever heard about Brainiac (yes, I know it is comic). A purpose or the look for one, is enough in order to function.

  6. @Ko252

    Where does that purpose come from? What guides this purpose and what enforces it? An abstract idea of a purpose is not enough; you need something more concrete. Otherwise there wouldn't be nothing preventing the intelligent agent from abandoning that purpose. Without some kind of driving force, there is no action. In humans and other creatures that possess self awareness, this driving force is instincts and emotions.

  7. @khatack Purpose comes from the system itself, since a organism with no purpose will stop existing in one way or another (for instance by comming suicide, etc). So the natural purpose of us, a biological maschinary, is to promote the genome that constitute us, by simple proliferation. A system lacking such purpose, is less likely to keep existing. Then why should someone keep on existing after the unbringing of children? You are talking about a driving force for existing, but all in all there

  8. @khatack is no meaning with anything, since we are all but a chain reaction to the past. In that sense of view, everything is just meaningless. Instinct and emotions (the latter being a variant of the former), is just some tools made by the evolutionary prosess to keep continueing a natural cycle. There is nothing intelligent behind it, and the self awareness you are talking about is just meaningless.

  9. @Ko252

    If you go down that road, the only conclusion you will be able to reach is that everything is meaningless and you might as well shoot yourself in the head to end your pointless existence. Since that isn't a very productive conclusion, we can happily dismiss that line of thinking as irrelevant.

    The fact remains that an intelligent creature, whether artificial or natural, requires emotion or some other kind of driving force in order to survive and thrive.

  10. I don't know why Rolex would use a marketing pitch bragging about what they HAVE done to a bunch of people that are concerned with that will be…

  11. All of those people who help up the red cards are the people who go to good videos and click the dislike button just because they like to fuck everyting up.

  12. @khatack That is the only conclusion valid. Everything else is just a lie we tell ourself to keep on living. Again, you speak about intelligence, but what is it? What is to exist? Is a stone alive? What is the difference between between being alive or not?

  13. @Ko252

    Why is everything else a lie? If I have a personal goal in my life then it matters to me, and I don't give a rat's behind about whether or not it has any universal meaning. There is no higher purpose to anything, yes that is a fact. This particular fact however, is completely irrelevant because it is of no use to anyone. There are more interesting questions that are still without an answer, and I'd rather focus on them.

    And intelligence is the ability to gain, process and use knowledge

  14. It's not that funny (bad jokes and the performance is in no way a stand up routine, just reading/telling jokes) but the whole way it looks is very cute and the way he stood up and stood down is pretty awesome.

  15. Cool, very nice approach to robotics. I'll be interested to see where it goes in the future. Great to see something like this especially on TEDWomen.

  16. @Tolstoievsky No, they dont teach you determinism in med. school. And further on, this was the final conclusion after studying and researching in the field of neuroscience.

  17. It's Technology, Entertainment and Design. This satisfied all three. You people can shut up. Just because you're old and her skirt made you uncomfortable is no reason to down vote her. She did very well in my opinion. Also, WoW what a babe! lol

  18. Heather Knight is currently conducting her doctoral research at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute and YOU are posting comments on YouTube.

  19. Whoa, I thought that ppl who are interested in TEDTalks would be the kind to quickly get over the choice of clothing and actually pay attention to what's being said/shown. I, for example, noticed that the robot needs more programming to know how much time to wait before starting the next joke. Interesting 😉

  20. @mortadelletube true , pausing is kind of a big important point. if you laugh , the noise you make laughing inhibits you from hearing the joke if there's no pause xD also linked jokes work better than completely random ones

  21. Am i the only one who is impressed by the fact that the robot could just stand up and sit down all by ITSELF!!! D:

  22. I can see this a couple of years in the future being a party entertainment at home, or a toy for kids.
    Unfortunatelly, it was very short. I was very finding out if she buid the robot herself (or who build it, because I wanted to know if it has other applications) and where does it reference the movement and the jokes from.

  23. Wow, the quality of comments has not lived up to my expectations here. This isn't acceptable commentary for a TED talk comments page. These comments should be interesting, informative, engaging and inspiring; quite frankly I'm disappointed in the YouTube community. I see nothing new here; these comments have been made before, although it's the first time someone got on stage without their pants so I'll give you that. Step it up people. I remember when TED comments used to be something special!

  24. @The6ChickMagnet I'm very sorry to hear that, maybe you just need to break out of your shell slowly…or do you mean you're a shut-in? In that case I'm sorry you can't get outside, I hope you're receiving the very best of care. I do hope you stop referring to yourself with that disparaging word though since it will no doubt contribute to your feelings of depression and isolation. Best of luck!

  25. @kidax123 Seriously? Seeing responses of the "in the kitchen" variety make me mad, hurt, and sad. This woman knows more about robots than you do, and has worked for NASA and the JPL. Is that why you have to make the typical 1950s-called-it-wants-its-sexism-back joke? This isn't funny or cute. For extra sad points, you won't stop doing this until one day a man calls you out on it.

  26. @singingcera I was abused as a child and the way I cope is by expressing myself
    through my writing. Please be more understanding 🙁

  27. @yourix2

    Well, it wouldn't be much of a stand up comedian otherwise.

    Though you're right as far as technical achievements go that's a pretty complicated task, but it's hardly unique at this point so the work to accomplish it has basically already been done, all that needs be done in specific cases is to apply that work.

    Dynamic walking and running (sort of) has also been achieved in robots but is a far more difficult task. So I'm not all that impressed by it standing.

  28. @TheCakeAintNoLie

    I want to travel back in time and curse the bastard that first got humans to wear clothes.

  29. That was horrible. The girl would have to lough every time mechanically just to make the robot respond…
    Poor audience was trying to interact in some way…to get a reaction for a reaction..that is the heart of standup….interaction on some level…which in this case Is zero.

  30. @femtokun "ha ha….he is talking about the swiss….ha ha…it is a french robot…ha ha I am turning into a robot myself" -_- horrible performance. It is just an mp3 which shuffles recorded jokes..I did not see any response or reaction…red and green boards were for nothing.

  31. @SiliconBong I think there are people out there that dont like the idea of a mechanic imitation of a human. That is programable robot is called Nao made by Sony, I have been watching videos from this robot doing all sorts of things, and there are always people who dislike them. I just find amazing the idea that one could make an algorithm that gives a rough description of how a human walks or talks!!!!

  32. Even at the turn of the century, PerceptionES, this was far off into the future; after we had fed all the people of the world, made contact with the aliens, solved the oil crisis, cured all disease and became friends with the planet 🙂

  33. I like how the audience feels oddly compelled to patronize a robot.
    That exploding tickle-me-elmo vid is waaay funnier

  34. Interesting tool. I'm curious about what kind of data, if left for multiple different groups over a long period of time, could be extrapolated from it. What kind of things we may be able to analyze which are subtle aspects of the communities and lifestyles which we all live in. This is a wonderful enterprise, and best of luck to you Heather Knight. Making the world smile isn't an easy task, and is often under-appreciated. So, thank you.

  35. well the robot at least makes her awkward introduction seem less awkward otherwise this is just dumb. I can't be bothered to finish watching.
    on a sidebar she seems really smart and cute can I ask her out? without the robot.

  36. Ten points for the charming and cute design, zero points for the general idea of robotic comedy. Someone clearly missed the point here.

  37. This is actually a really good idea.  The ability to tell jokes and make people laugh is learned in humans through trial and error, so it stands to reason that it's the best way to teach the same skill to a robot.  It just needs a subroutine to adjust its timing and inflection accordingly.  Rolex rolex rolex rolex rolex rolex rolex….  Sorry, I don't know why I suddenly and without warning started going on about Rolexes.

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