Yesterday my brother Brian turned 22. The occasion was little noted nor celebrated.
He and I did, however, enjoin in an intellectually provacative conversation regarding his educational pursuits. Brian is a senior this year at the University of St. Thomas, studying engineering and computer programming. He told me that he has been studying the advancements being made in the field of artificial intelligence, noting that we have been able to program robots to achieve and understand so much about our world. One of the concepts that seems beyond the grasp of robots, however, is that of humor. He told me that this idea will likely never be mastered by artificial intelligence.
Setting aside the obvious problems of assigning engineers to teach a robot humor, I believe this is a notable question for our age. If the robots do not understand humor, who will teach the gift of laughter to our children? If the comfortably expected comedic tidings of Two and a Half Men cannot bring a smile to the soulless chrome face of a robot, who will bring delight to the next generation with sly sexual innuendo and delightful zingers? Without humor in the robot-led future, our world will become a gray void of ceaseless toil and infinite Excel spreadsheets. Mirth will be replaced with calculated efficiency, and laughter replaced with tasteless, nutrient-loaded food pellets dispensed from above. Does this sound like the kind of world you want to live in? The answer, of course, is no. This sounds even worse than Mexico.
This, my friends, is why I support mayor R.T. Ryback’s proposed 8% property tax increase on a city with a crippled housing market which already has the highest tax rate in the region. Because if we can’t teach robots humor, then who will boost the precious self-esteem of our children and tell them that their choices are merely the result of factors outside their control? The answer? Evil robots, that’s who. Probably ones controlled by Wal-Mart.