As you gather round the fireplace this Christmas and your smug second cousin decides it’s time to drunkenly berate everyone about the blockchain market, try drowning him out with this new, technologically-advanced carol: “Santa baby bore sweet Jesus Christ. Fa la la la la la la, la la la la la la la la.”Research scientist Janelle Shane trained a neural network to write Christmas carols.

The machine learns from a dataset, which in this instance was about 240 carols, new and old, aggregated by the Times of London and neural net hobbyist Erik Svensson.Neural networks can learn to imitate tone and vocabulary, as Shane points out in a blog post about the carols, but they pretty much suck at picking up on the subtleties of the human language. In other words, while the machine can easily learn how to successfully string together words and phrases, they don’t make a whole lot of sense.

For example:The story of the chimney seeSanta baby, and blood and joyous so world and joy and good will to seeSanta baby bore sweet Jesus ChristFa la la la la la la, la la la la la la la la.King of toys and hippopotamuses [sic] full of the light of that stood at the dear Son of Santa ClausHe was born in a wonderful christmas treeRun, run Rudolph, run, run Rudolph, run, run Rudolph, run, run Rudolph, run, run Rudolph, run, run Rudolph, run, run Rudolph, run, run Rudolf the new born King.Shane noted that not all of the words produced by the neural network were originally found in the dataset provided. For instance, the words “Curry” and “Dingle” weren’t in the input data, but did show up in the AI-generated carols.

“The neural net likes to invent words that it thinks sound sort of carol-y,” Shane wrote.With a heart reindeerBut no more a stranger.Santa baby, and Dancer, and Curry downHappy HolidayWhen the snowflakes will call the world wakes to bringGlory bears and asses the air the angels sangAnd Christmas treeThere are also a number of carols featuring the Sandman, but Shane said in the post that the word was only mentioned once in the human dataset, adding that neural networks can inexplicably cling to certain words.The sandman so be joyful now it was born today!Gloria in excelsis Deo.The sandman bright before Him.The holly bears a berry bearsAnd star in the snow is born today!The sandman so love to seek the worldThe sandman so love so deep and sing and the sunThe machine’s inability to grasp the nuances of human language means that these carols are deeply nonsensical. Finding meaning in them is a fool’s errand. Read more from…

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