April 1, 2011
A.H.—The age of artificial humor
It was only a matter of time. With A.I., (Artificial Intelligence) surpassing human brains’ speed at organizing information, generating original creativity was its next logical frontier. Much as puddles of elements mixed to create new life forms on ancient earth, a miraculous ignition of new material has evolved from the electronic ethers, to compete with human comedians.
A.H., the age of Artificial Humor is upon us, and contemporary comedians are justified in feeling “aggregated.”
After piggy backing on humans by means of motion and emotion capturing electrodes for a decade or two, avatars are spontaneously originating both music (A.C.—Artificial Creativity) and comic material and proliferating updated versions of themselves at scary speed. And despite the seeming randomness of these creations, they are even deemed, by arts critics, to have “talent.”
Scientists say this phenomenon was accelerated by the launching of James Cameron’s blockbuster, “Avatar,” and the success of an IBM computer over two brainiacs on “Jeopardy.” “They’ve gotten confident,” says Cameron, “and that’s a dangerous thing.” This modern day proof of the “hundredth monkey theory,” as Artificially Intelligent life forms acquire each others’ tricks, even those generated from distant, non networked computers, is horrifying flesh talent.
“We never thought it would happen to us,” said Woody Allen. Although he’s long ago become a serious film auteur, the elder Allen now finds himself threatened by an avatar of his early stand up persona, which is WRITING NEW ALLENESQUE COMEDY MATERIAL.
“If imitation is the sincerest form of copyright infringement.,” says Allen, I guess I should be flattered. “Look, plenty of funny looking Baby Boomer kids mimicked me in the old days, and there were lots of animated versions of me done by voice mimics, but now I’ve been completely cloned by some computer,” he sputters. “At least they waited til Dangerfield was dead…he was lucky.”
The late Dangerfield’s avatar has been extremely lucky. Booked to perform for a week in March at the Bellagio in Las Vegas via a Powerpoint presentation, its show seats sold out mere moments after going on sale online. The anonymous creator is battling the Dangerfield estate for all income from the the performances, but can’t legally take credit for what the avatar is improvising on its own. New arenas of litigation are erupting daily.
“I’m not an animal,” the replicant said, “I’m an avatar! Gimme some respect!” Dangerfield’s replicant is also featured as a nude centerfold in next month’s “Wired” Magazine, with a 3D pop-up “endowment” said to well exceed the comic’s actual proportions. Avatar groupies are apparently sending fan mail accompanied by 3D nude pictures of themselves.
A Pixar animator, also preferring to remain anonymous, designed the Woody Allen character as a birthday gift to his uncle after hours. “Working in my high tech cubicle in a windowless studio, day bled into night.”
He recalls he took a nap in his recliner as the computer program refined the caricature, morphing it from photos, then, sometime during that hour, the avatar took over his screen, virtually vamping, creating its own very accurate take on Allen’s material. At first, he thought he was dreaming it.
“The avatar began to improvise on the Ed Sullivan stuff from the 60’s, which I’d fed it as a point of reference so it could embody the guy’s moves. When I woke up it had made its own MP3 –forty minutes of killer material—and gotten itself a manager.”
“The crossover potential is enormous,” says that wunderkind manager, a flesh human named David Landau. He’s opened Landau’s Avatar Agency, a virtual office to which no human comedians may apply, and is signing up eerily talented bots and avatars like crazy. He tells how punning is common among the applicants. “It’s the easiest form for computers—cross-referencing the intersection of two frames of thought. It’s the lowest form of humor.”
“But, the Lisa Lampanelli is amazing,” Landau says. “I think she’s funnier than the real one, and she’s got a big gay following, avatars and real!” he brags. “Oh, and spare me the YouTubes and MP3’s, everybody” he says. “I have more holosynch pitching me one liners than I can handle.”
Landau brags that sometimes sweat and spit seem to emanate from the avatars if you sit close enough to the images, just like in 3D animated features.
When asked if any differences between the real Allen and the artificial one were apparent, he said, “I think all the virtual talent replicants of Jewish comedians aren’t Jewish enough. They’re kinda more like the Simms—WASPY. They haven’t got the exact intonation down yet, but,” he added ominously, “…they will.”
He opines: “I believe the comic bots and avatars are studying the material of Mel Brooks, Larry David, Richard Lewis and the like and assimilating neuroses in an effort to generate more Jewish joke structure,” he reports. “Jewish humor is the ultimate frontier for avatars.”
The Allen avatar’s “I deleted a moose,” bit, may not incite the guffaws of Allen’s original “I shot a moose” material, but the element of surprise currently works in its favor, says avatar aficionado Matt Drudge in his “Drudge Report.”
“Let’s face it, humans are so 20th century,” Drudge pontificates. “These virtual virtuosos have no egos, no entourage, no insurance, no fancy food or conditions, no UNIONS. They can work 366/25/8 under any conditions without complaining. It’s the business model of the future. Comics should just go avatar themselves and keep the rights. If the original is booked, he, or she emails the avatar to fill in—no first class flights, no VIP accommodations—it’s a win win for everybody.”
Says Jerry Seinfeld, who is opening for his own avatar at Foxwoods in May: “Mine is an overnight success. It builds from timing and tricks it learned from me and writes high tech observational stuff, mostly about geeks and bots, which is not my world. It can have it, as far as I’m concerned.”
When asked why he’d play second fiddle to his own avatar by taking lesser billing, he shrugged sheepishly “Hey. If you can’t beat em, book em. I may start writing for it.”
“I anticipated that machines would soon surpass human intelligence; but I never thought bots could make me laugh,” admitted Ray Kurzweil, author of such future shock tomes as The Age of Intelligent Machines. “Computers’ creativy may soon swallow up any need for human artists.”
Kurzweil, who foresaw computers surpassing humans at chess, was asked if he thinks the novelty will wear off. “I believe Pandora’s Box is open now. Humans have been technologically cannibalized and improved upon. Low maintenance avatars, once the coding is complete, are immortal. Humans can’t top that,” he warns.
Comedy is not the only talent threatened by computers. Said Clive Davis, music profits prophet extraordinaire, “I used to think that those talent mills cranking out boy and girl groups at Nick and Disney in Florida would be the biggest threat to authentically gifted artists. A few harmonies and dance moves on some sexy young kids, a pushy manager, and you’ve had these venue fillers on your hands. But then Beyonce, Justin and the Jonas brothers developed real talent. It’s the same with the avatars—they were factory originated, but now they are self-generating.”
When asked to critique the comic replicants, Davis said: “These avatars are technically good at comedy—perfect timing and delivery, maybe a little too perfect—and it’s just a matter of time before they accomplish being silly instead of creepy. This whole Artificial Talent thing—I never saw it coming. I’m considering retiring immediately.”
DISCLAIMER: All quotes herein are Artificial (A.Q.). No celebrity was harmed in the writing of this article.