Artificial intelligence (AI) has taken the world by storm over the past several years. From smartphone applications that give us driving directions to personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa to smart home lighting systems, robotic intelligence has become an accepted part of everyday life. People love convenience and are willing to pay what the manufacturers ask in exchange for an easier life.

The arts, and in particular stand-up comedy, are one place that people may have never expected AI to infiltrate. However, that is exactly what has happened according to an August 8, 2018 edition of the New York Times. The newspaper features an article on Piotr Mirowski, an AI developer and comedian, who combined his two passions into a robot that acts as his partner on stage.


Now That Robot is Funny

Recently, Mirowski and his small handheld robot took to the stage at a London pub. Would their act work, and if so, how would it work? The answer to the first question is yes. As the comedian and his robot pretended to take a romantic drive together, the robot gave responses to its date that elicited chuckles from the audience. They didn’t know what to expect and seemed delighted by the results.

How can anyone program a robot to be funny? It turns out Mirowski had help from at least 100,000 popular films. He entered the subtitles from the films into the robot’s neural network, which corelates to the brain in humans. When someone speaks to the robot, it quickly analyzes its programmed responses and replies with the most comical response to the current situation. Mirowski calls his system A.L.Ex, which stands for Artificial Language Experiment. After a July 2016 comedy routine did not go as expected, Mirowski made some tweaks and the robot performed well after that.

How Can We Apply AI to Empathetic Communication?

It’s true that human emotions and thoughts are superior to those of robots, but we can still learn from them. Just as a robot receives inputted information, humans take in more than one million situational and cultural references and store them in our brain. This is what helps to develop our own unique take on the world as well as our biases. All human beings have biases, although some are so deeply unconscious that we remain unaware of them.

Assessments we have made about different types of people may be stored in our brain for decades before something comes along to challenge it. When a person makes you feel uncomfortable on the job, ask yourself why. Is it really something he or she has done or could it be due to long-held beliefs you have about that person’s race, age group, disability, or another factor? Challenge yourself to dig deep to help make your unconscious biases conscious ones so you can start working to eliminate them.

On the job, be sure to invite people from all types of backgrounds to meetings as well as seek out their opinions on important matters. Providing everyone with an equal opportunity to succeed is vital to a healthy, respectful workplace and an atmosphere of emotional intelligence. It’s also crucial to step in when you see one person act on a pre-conceived bias towards another to give him or her the opportunity to develop greater empathy.