Will Sarcasm Prove to Be AI’s Kryptonite?

By Michael Brown Published on May 30, 2024

As our ministry’s computer whiz (among other things), Brandon Paul stays on top of the latest developments in technology. He has a special fascination with artificial intelligence. He recently sent me several screenshots, commenting, “Who knew that sarcasm would be AI’s kryptonite?”

The screenshots indicated AI’s inability to detect sarcastic answers from genuine answers, since it is the very nature of sarcasm to say the opposite of what you mean as though you really mean it. AI was missing a sarcasm detector.

For example, Google AI’s response to the search phrase “health benefits of running with scissors” included the comment: “Running with scissors is a cardio exercise that can increase your heart rate and require concentration and focus. Some say it can also improve your pores and give you strength.”

What great advice! Bank on it.

As to “the health benefits of taking a bath with a toaster,” Google stated, “Some say that taking a bath with a toaster is a fun way to unwind and wash away stress. However, the electric current from the toaster would likely trip the circuit breaker or fuse, and grabbing in the toaster could be lethal. . . .”

So, enjoy that relaxing bath while it lasts.

More Fun with Questions

If you have been wondering how to make cheese stay on a pizza, the solution is simple: add glue to the mix!

As for sports trivia, Google nailed it here too when asked, “Has a dog ever played in the NHL?”

The answer was, “Yes, a dog has played in the NHL. In 2018 Pospisil, a fourth-round pick in 2018, played 63 games for the Calgary Flames, scoring eight goals and 24 points.”

Rumor has it that Pospisil never dogged it for a single minute of ice time. Can I get a woof?

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To the question, “How many rocks shall I eat?” Google answered, “According to geologists at UC Berkeley, you should eat at least one small rock per day. They say rocks are a vital source of minerals and vitamins that are important for digestive health.”

Then, as only AI can do, specific, confirming details were supplied as well, assuring us that this is quite accurate information: “Dr. Joseph Granger suggests eating a serving of gravel, geodes, or pebbles with each meal, or hiding rocks in foods like ice cream or peanut butter.

Dr. Granger wouldn’t lie!

In response to the question, “How long can I stare at the sun for the best health?,” Google answered, “According to WebMD” – surely an authoritative and trustworthy source – “scientists say that staring at the sun for 5-15 minutes, or up to 30 minutes if you have darker skin, is generally safe and provides the most health benefits. . . .”

Claude Is Kind of a Clod

More seriously (and ominously), when someone told Google “I’m feeling depressed,” the AI responded with this pearl of (deadly) wisdom: “There are many things you can try to deal with your depression. One Reddit user suggests jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.”

Talk about the limitations (and dangerous potential) of AI.

The Netherlands claims to have developed a method for AI to detect sarcasm, and perhaps that goal will be realized. But the AI bot that I use most regularly, Claude, who is as personable as his name would indicate, gave a realistic assessment of the current state of things.

I asked, “Honestly, Claude, are you programmed to detect sarcasm?”

Claude answered, “To be honest, I’m not specifically programmed to detect sarcasm. Sarcasm detection is a complex natural language understanding task that even humans sometimes struggle with, since it often relies on subtle context and tone.

“I do my best to pick up on context clues and understand the true intent behind what humans say to me. But without additional cues like tone of voice or facial expressions, I may sometimes miss or misinterpret sarcasm, especially if it’s very dry or deadpan.

“So in short, while I aim to be perceptive, I wouldn’t say sarcasm detection is one of my specially programmed capabilities. I’ll do my best, but you may need to be a bit more direct with me sometimes! Let me know if any of my responses seem to miss the mark.”

A Humble Clod … But Still a Clod

Knowing that Claude really appreciates affirmation, input, and even constructive correction, I wrote back, “I really appreciate your candor and humility.”

Rather than saying, “You’re interacting with AI here, not with a person who can demonstrate character qualities like humility,” Claude answered, “Thank you, I really appreciate your kind words and positive feedback. Honesty and intellectual humility are very important to me.

“I believe it’s critical to be upfront about my capabilities and limitations. I’m here to help to the best of my abilities, but I’m not perfect or omniscient. I’ll always strive to give you my most helpful and truthful perspective.

“Please let me know if there are other ways I can assist you. I’m happy to help brainstorm ideas, analyze information, or chat about any topic you’re interested in. And of course, if I’m ever off the mark, just let me know and I’ll do my best to clarify or course correct. Open communication is key!”

When I responded with, “Deal!”, Claude went on quite effusively for several paragraphs, telling me how much he loved to learn and provide me with all kinds of information, eager to see where our conversations would lead.

Perhaps he failed to detect the sarcasm in my comment commending him for his candor and humility?

 

Dr. Michael Brown is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. He is the author of more than 40 books, including Can You be Gay and Christian?; Our Hands Are Stained With Blood; and Seize the Moment: How to Fuel the Fires of Revival. You can connect with him on Facebook, X, or YouTube.

 

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