During his 20 years as the New Yorker’s cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff developed an interest in the creative potential of artificial intelligence. In 2005, he helped found the magazine’s cartoon caption contest and his desk began receiving between 5,000 and 10,000 entries a week. Mankoff – who studied experimental psychology at university – worked with Microsoft, and Google’s DeepMind, on projects that attempted to develop algorithms to distinguish between funny and unfunny submissions. For tech firms, developing machines with a sense of humour makes commercial sense. As electronic assistants and robots play an ever greater role in our lives, we’ll want them to be good company. Yet Mankoff, who this year became US Esquire’s humour and cartoon editor, thinks the quest to build wisecracking computers is a “dead end”. “Machines in the end are idiots, or maybe idiots savants, that need humans to create content that’s going to be interesting to human beings,” he said when we spoke on the phone. Instead, he’s interested in the creative and comedic possibilities of human-machine interaction. Read more here…

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