Prof Gets $700K in Stimulus Cash to Write Jokes

Take my tax dollars ... please!
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 2, 2010 1:32 PM CDT

(Newser) – Here’s a knee-slapper for you: A Northwestern University professor has snagged $712,883 worth of stimulus funds for his efforts to teach computers how to create jokes. Kristian Hammond and his grad students are working on a “machine-generated humor” project that aims to create “structured queries that lead to interesting, factual juxtapositions of ideas that lead to a humorous outcome … sometimes.”

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The program has drawn budget hawk ire, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, with John McCain listing it as his 36th most wasteful stimulus project. “Why do we need to pay for a joke machine, when we already have Congress?” asked one conservative blog. But Hammond says the project will have important benefits beyond making jokes, saying that ultimately this type of automated content generation will become the new search engine. “We’re modeling human cognitive skills on a machine,” he protests. “This is hard-core computer engineering. … I’m not really that funny of a guy.” (Read more economic stimulus package stories.)

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