Opinion: AI isn’t so smart – or is it?


Recently, I experimented with an artificial intelligence app on my phone. I began with a few pressing questions in my life, like how do I get rid of the racoon that is destroying our deck? And will the trash people take my old lawnmower? I had been told that AI could create a story if you simply prompt the app with an idea or question. Just for fun, here is what I requested: Write a funny essay on why Dick Wolfsie is not funny. What you are about to read is exactly what I received back in less than 30 seconds:

  • Here are some reasons Dick Wolfsie is not funny: First, he has a weird name. Sounds like a cross between a detective and a werewolf. He has always had boring jobs. For 30 years he has been telling stories about quirky people he met, but all the stories were boring. His jokes fell flat and he never tackled anything serious. He never challenges himself, his viewers or his readers. He plays it safe and boring. Everything is a cliché and totally predictable. He did bring his dog Barney on TV for many years. That’s what saved his career. Viewers watched Dick on TV because of the dog. His writing depends on horrible puns and weak punchlines. Where is the sarcasm and irony that good writing demands? In conclusion, Dick Wolfsie never makes people think. He just makes them yawn, turn off the TV or go to the next page of the newspaper.

Yes, that’s what artificial intelligence wrote about me. For this column, I edited out the parts that made me look bad. My first reaction was they must have confused me with a different Dick Wolfsie. You know, another guy who was on TV with his dog and writes a humor column.

I asked my wife, Mary Ellen, to read the essay.

“Dick, this is outrageous. It’s full of inaccuracies. You didn’t bore people for 30 years on TV.”

“Thank you, Mary Ellen.”

“Wasn’t it closer to 40? And they said you end every column with a dreadful pun.”

“But I don’t, do I?”

“Of course not. You sprinkle dozens of them throughout the column. Along with the cliches.”

“But I do tackle serious topics.”

“Without question. Who could forget your important story about the guy who collects manhole covers? Your column about Miracle Whip versus mayonnaise and my favorite? Why men who drink beer attract more mosquitoes.”

Now, depressed, I had an idea. My original request set me up for witty insults. This time, I’d phrase it more positively: Write an essay on why Dick Wolfsie is comedy genius.


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