Today on the Great Job, Internet! desk, we’re going to feature a few artificially intelligent luminaries from the world of Twitter bots—computerized Twitter accounts that generate weird tweets by interpreting their data-based world in a specific, idiosyncratic way. If you don’t have any of these algorithmic curiosities in your feed, you might consider following a couple. They add a welcome dose of randomness and surprise to the Twitter firehose, and while they spout a lot of nonsense, the meaningless chaff is worth it for the glimmers of accidental wisdom that come through.
Today’s first bot recommendation is TV Helper (@TVCommentBot), a little creature who watches TV nonstop and adds subtitles to what it sees. The resulting tweets can add a layer of weirdness to familiar shows…
…lend a sinister angle to fast food advertising…
…and even provide sarcastic, absurdist political commentary:
“This desktop computer of grand pianos” is surely the best description of Ron Paul that Twitter has ever seen.
TV Helper was created by David Lublin, who originally programmed the bot for an art installation. Lublin and his collaborators built TV Helper by combining an image-identification “deep belief network” (which allows the bot to “see”) with another algorithm that scours a vast library of text to extract Mad Libs-style sentence structures. TV Helper tries to figure out what it’s looking at and then plugs the results into one of its Mad Libs sentences, and the result is delightful lunacy.
Follow TV Helper for a while, and some odd habits emerge. The naive bot will often interpret something shiny as a “grand piano,” for instance, and any outfit that shows a little skin is liable to be deemed a “swimsuit” or a “bikini.” It’s common for big fields of red to be subtitled as “blood,” ominously. And TV Helper also sees a lot of “web sites” and “laptops,” but maybe when you live in the internet, that’s how you view the world.
Below are a few more examples of TV Helper’s penchant for ineffably brilliant non sequiturs; for more, naturally, follow TV Helper on Twitter.