Tag Archives: laugh

on Turing



and now … getting back to The Turing Test

lately my thoughts return, once again, to Alan Turing and the infamous Turing Test he conducted pertaining to machine intelligence, or better stated, pertaining to our human perceptions, beliefs and gullibility surrounding the technologies we create

the original goal of The Turing Test was to test ‘a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human’

however, based on this goal in relation to the actual methodologies and approach used by Turing, we can see a certain strange perversion didn’t necessarily shed any direct light on or prove anything at all remotely about a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior but instead used a trick in the form of a hidden human agent cleverly disguised as the computing machine to simulate varying degrees of intelligence along the machine to human intelligence spectrum 

at this time in history we may want to re-examine how we measure for intelligence — both machine and human intelligence

our standards of human language — especially machine-mediated, near-human language of social communication through the screen — have sufficiently changed over the course of several decades

and we need to keep in mind that the standards of human language vary significantly as we examine our communications as delivered through different mediums — for instance, human language in classic literature varies tremendously from the way we text each other via SMS; email communications — in regards to content, purpose and language structure — differ from the way we converse through social media as well as the way we communicate face-to-face IRL { the TLA for ‘In Real Life’ }; and so on

what if we considered testing ‘a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human’ by utilizing different forms of human communication exchange?

for instance, what if we looked at machine intelligence through the lens of humor and laughter?


could a computing machine perform a successful set of stand up comedy in front of a live, human audience? can a computing robotic device actually make us laugh through comedy? not just by delivering jokes and schtick as written and honed through a human comedy author, mind you, but by cleverly crafting its own comedic material through whatever embedded intelligence-derived writing algorithms its programmed with, and then by delivering that material live, onstage?

and — from the other perspective — can our computing technologies in 2014 detect and respond to a human-delivered set of stand-up comedy through genuine laughter?

my questions here — just to clarify — challenge our current notions of machine intelligence by proposing we conduct the testing using actual machines, not just simulations of machine intelligence

let’s not fake it to make it here when it comes to our measure of intelligence — let’s avoid any sense of a mere simulation of intelligence by leveraging the state of our technologies as they exist today, ‘as is’

unfortunately i’m not the person to actually design, develop and build the actual technological objects needed to conduct these experiments — i’m just not technically proficient enough to produce an intelligent-enough robotic stand-up / humor / laughing machine to properly conduct the testing as i imagine it would need to be

but my hypothesis goes something like this:

the technologies we create will never be smart enough to deliver a successful set of stand-up comedy to a live, human audience — the content of the material would miss the mark and the delivery would be too awkward and off to get people to feel any amount of the sense of mirth needed to provoke genuine, human laughter

not only would a robotic stand-up act not produce laughter — in an even worse way such an act would most likely, instead, create an atmosphere of strangeness, this uncanny valley effect as defined and described by Masahiro Mori — the performance would feel downright creepy to people and would actually start to effect our human perceptions and our overall experience of the space and place of The Comedy Club as a familiar and funny scenario

i also do not believe our current technologies could be successfully programmed to behave in a smart enough manner onstage to improvise in the way a stand-up does on a nightly, performance-by-performance basis — a robot, for instance, might not be able to read the audience to gauge how they’re receiving the material, to see if they’re being funny enough to proceed with further material ‘as previously planned’ or to, perhaps, switch up to a different branch of jokes and storytelling based upon both an audience’s laughter and the general human feel of the room 

and then — when going in the other direction — when asking whether or not a robot or other computing machine could identify something as funny and then laugh in a natural, human way at the comedy or humor that typical inspires our human laughter — this, to me, is a no brainer

there’s just no way

in fact, we would be tripping into the same uncanny valley every step of the way — it might, perhaps, even be a far deeper fall into an unfathomable abyss of uncanniness

we can look to the dinner scene from Kubrick and Spielberg’s film A.I. Artificial Intelligence as the speculative example of what might actually happen when a robotic being encounters a humorous situation


as a robotic boy, David sits at the dinner table with his new adoptive parents — as his parents Monica and Henry Swinton eat and drink their meal, David imitates the act of eating and drinking since he himself does not actually need food-based sustenance to live — after some silent tension at the dinner table, David breaks out into a crazy fit of laughter that quite literally scares the shit out of the Swintons — and then, following the initial scary outburst of laughter, the entire family exchanges more laughter around the dinner table

the entire scene makes no sense at all from a purely human perspective, but we see how a robot might misinterpret the tension in the room as potential humor to laugh about — here, for some strange reason, the laughter of the robotic boy, succeeds in making his human parents laugh — his laughter somehow becomes contagious for them, infectious, and they join in — but even then, the shared social sense of human laughter still contains a sour uncanniness, there is still some tense pressure residing in the room


so, on that note:

is there anyone that might be up to the challenge? who here on the interwebz can build a robot or other technology that could potentially make a human audience genuinely laugh?

and, could you also build out its amazing technologically-based counterpart as well? a robot that can detect and actually laugh in a human, natural way to human-delivered stand-up comedy?

do you submit to my challenge?

do you even dare?

Happy Birthday Walter!


Hi Kathryn,

I’m not sure what’s going on tonight — I’m guessing an underground continuing version of Energy Circle and a celebration of Walter’s birthday? Too cool!

Well, here’s my appreciation of some moments spent with Walter …

Jon HindmarshDeb Mascara and i started up a series of laugh performances as Laugh Foundation and we were preparing to perform for a show at Doran Gallery at MassArt. We couldn’t find a private spot to warm up and practice, but luckily we found a nearby elevator to laugh in and Walter was there to share in our rather public laugh intervention performance on this readymade stage. It was such a delight to share in this merry mirth-making experience with Walter, Laugh Foundation and some random students and parents on the elevator — a rather interesting little experiment to conduct together with our amazing guru of laughter, energy and joy, thank you SO much Walter for giving us your insight and guidance into the human phenomena of laughter and energy! You’re the best!

Happy birthday Walter!

Much love and laughter to everyone tonight!


laugh more often

stolen / borrowed photo of Danny DeVito laughing

maybe i just need to laugh a little more often

ya know?


Me and Marco as Beware the HaberdashMarco came out to Boston this week from Seattle and i have to say — i don’t think i’ve laughed so hard for a long, long time

and i think for the amount of time he was out this way we actually laughed more often than i normally do on your average daily or weekly basis


i feel a little better because of it, too

and it was all about completely silly shit, too

we didn’t need to go to a comedy club or listen to CDs of stand-up comedy in the car or anything

i think we’re just both imbued with this kind of comedic outlook on life

certain perfectly inane sequences of events can set off huge bombing guffaws of hilarity at times — and i know a lot of it is kind of just in our minds, if you know what i mean — its a particular sensibility that you collectively cultivate with a friend or a small group of colleagues or acquaintances that quite naturally develops and grows within the space and experience of the relationships we build in life — and its something unique to just certain friends, just certain groups of people in your life, based on the time you’ve spent and the amount of discussions you’ve shared over the years

sometimes just a look can set it all off, ya know?

a knowing nod

you know the deal, right? 

as a friendship builds — as any relationship builds, crumbles, ebbs and flows — the mutually-shared experiences and the things you talk about build up a sort of pre-verbal vocabulary that is very much based on a private language that each of us develops without a need for words

and its a phenomena that can really only occur with live presence

at least that’s my feeling about this concept

here’s Marco — a photo i took of Marco — when we lived out at The Church Street Apartment in Watertown back in the mid-90s


the photograph could be called A Portrait of Marco with a Shovel, Plastic Watering Can and a Guillotine — that’s the title i would probably give it if i were including it in an exhibition in some local café, full-well knowing that nobody would purchase the photo or anything, but that coffeeshop-going viewers might spend a few minutes looking and fabricating their own interpretation of the private language Marco and i were using on that rather mild, Autumn day

you can just see it in the photograph, too, right?

the expression on his face isn’t due to a conversation we were engaged in, i wasn’t holding up and squeezing a rubber duck or anything like that, in the way they would at a Sears Portrait Studio back in the 70s

there’s a familiarity between us — between me, as the photographer, and Marco, my subject here — that you can feel if you really tune in to the warm details of the end image — i don’t know if you’d consider the photograph to feel casual or friendly, but you can see a certain kindness being expressed by Marco

i believe you can’t develop that depth of emotional connection and feeling without actual, live, human presence

when Marco and i wrote, recorded and performed as Beware the Haberdash back at about that time — in the early to mid-90s — i know that our connection through the music-makingour connection: through vibration and rhythm; through composition and improvisational, collaborative interplay; through talking about the music or planning for a show — our connection dove into a far deeper subconscious zone where speech, instruction, conversation — all of these things — were no longer necessary for us to actually communicate with each other through our shared live and present space 

its a rather fascinating phenomena

and its a phenomena that i am currently trying to better understand through my research into another very closely-related, uniquely human phenomena — the phenomena of laughter

my own personal beliefs — as informed by both my currently-collected, active research and from my gut — indicate that laughter, like poetry, is both immediately mutually-understood by a group of people at the higher, signal level within a given social context and is also involved in such a complex intersection of intellectual, cultural and physiological systems that simultaneously shatter that understanding due to all of the actual environmental and behavioral life experience we bring into the live and present social moment

to back up just a little bit here, let me first establish a background concept, a simple definition, if you will, that helps set the stage in a better light

humor and laughter exist as a living, breathing,
organic and found cybernetic, social system

its a system that learns and grows and develops and ebbs and flows just like any relationship that gets established between any 2 or more organisms in the world

at one point in human history — one could guess from the research done to-date — laughter evolved

we developed a way to laugh

we most likely started laughing as a human beings for the verySame reasons that any species begins to mutate or discover a new special skill or feature — we started laughing as a means for survival — as a way to endure certain psychological tensions that come embedded in our earthen, natural environment or that pulse within our sociological and cultural ecosystems

laughter came before humor

there’s no chicken and the egg that i can fathom from what we know about the theories and vast, eclectic academic areas that touch upon the phenomenas of humor and laughter, which include:

  • humor theory;
  • laughter theory;
  • tickle theory;
  • comedy;
  • psychology;
  • philosophy;
  • sociology;
  • neurobiology;
  • phenomenology;
  • language and linguistics;
  • natural selection and the theory of evolution;
  • cybernetics;
  • conversion, translation and interpretation;
  • and energy;


unfortunately this blog veryMuch reflects the rather powerful subconscious manner in which i produce and pursue my work as an artist, designer and performer — bits and pieces come to me in a rather random and sometimes chaotic fashion — i believe in chasing my inspiration in the actual moments when she whispers to me, so this means many pieces will feel undone, messy, but hopefully vital and real { or at least as real as you can get on the internetz }

so i leave you here with my thoughts from today to reflect upon

much of my previous thoughts on these subjects can be found on a myriad of other websites i publish to — for more on this thread of research and thought on laughter, humor and the areas in-between, check out Laugh Institute up on the webz — or you can always check back here to poke around some more and read up on my progress on the laughterLife, my continued experiments, writings, design and research into laughter as a human phenomena

Check out Beware the Haberdash online

why we laugh


i’ve done a lot of research in the areas of ‘humor, laughter and the areas in-between’ as a means to understand what makes things funny or not, and its a fascinating topic with numerous theories for us to consider — the leading theories include: The Superiority Theory; The Incongruity and Incongruity-Resolution Theories; The Benign Violation Theory; The Mechanical Theory; and The Release Theory

all of these theories delve into the rather interesting and subtle dynamics around the conditions that produce laughter from human beings, but i’m not so sure they actually even begin to answer the question:

Why do we laugh?

i remember reading all about Peter McGrath’s Benign Violation Theory in The Boston Globe a while back — McGrath’s claims behind his theory almost promise a rather compact and cozy little concept around interpersonal dynamics that almost stand alone as the veritable Holy Grail behind Humor and Laughter Research — a sort of ‘one simple theory explains it all’ — but closer examination and consideration, especially when bringing up examples of humor that actually purposely do not intend to produce genuine, out loud human laughter, subtly shifts Benign Violation from a category of laugh theory into more of a comedy strategy

i’d like to suggest that many of these theories
completely miss the mark

these theories do not actually explain why human beings laugh but instead examine the contextual circumstances that almost mechanically provoke the human response of laughter in only certain situations — know what i mean? 

its taken me quite some time now to really look at this subject matter in the proper light and to interpret and really analyze all the theories and nuances of laughter, humor, comedy and funniness — and i feel its oversimplistic and almost unfair to think that only one theory does the trick here, because laughter is a very complicated human phenomena, almost as complicated an area of study as our belief systems and our cultures

but, as a means to completely contradict myself now, i feel that we can, in fact, explain the ‘Why?’ question — and embed all of these various theories around the circumstances surrounding laughter into the major reason we laugh — with a new theory of laughter evolution as i’m about to try and articulate …

toward a
New Theory of
Human Laughter Evolution

an initial theory to answer the question ‘why do human beings laugh?’

this is going to sound totally ridiculous, maybe even funny to you, but i believe we laugh as human beings because we have to

we simply need to laugh

as human beings, we all walk through the world as these living, breathing vessels for various psycho-dynamic energies

some of these energies can be positive and some of these energies can be negative

but the energies build up inside all of us as if we were containers made of flesh and blood and bones that simply hold these mysterious energies


antiquated scientific theories actually suggested that liquids called humours literally coursed through our bodies — and that these liquid humours were what triggered joy and laughter in an almost endorphin-like fashion

but i believe that the energies we build up { not measured as liquid or solid or gas in form } need to be released — and one of the most positive ways we can release extreme build-ups of our internal energies is through laughter

one other consideration that might make this a wee bit more complex and realistic as a pseudo-scientific theory follows

we, as human beings, probably initially cultivated laughter as a release system in an iterative, evolutionary manner as our species needed to adapt to the tense circumstances of our world — this does not mean that i subscribe solely to Freud’s Release Theory, but our need to release unhealthy energy is the most likely original reason we began to laugh as a species — in early human pre-history we needed to ultimately release the harsh feelings and energies building up inside as we dealt with our environment and the ways of the world — and laughter is a rather transgressive human expression of these potentially negative energies that feel far too intense for the body and mind to handle in a healthy manner

so, we need to laugh to survive

laughter is an adaptive behavior we’ve developed over time as a means
to psychologically brave the challenging experiences we encounter in life

and now — depending upon our contextual circumstances in the moment — we’ve evolved a rather intriguing set of socio-dynamic systems around laughter { beyond our original adaptive ‘energy release’ needs } with a multitude of complex, situation-based rules to govern when, why and how we laugh, and whether or not a particular expression of laughter indicates certain levels of social acceptability and awareness

its all fascinating stuff, right?

i plan to post more here and elsewhere on the webz along the way as i conduct further research into laughter and humor through Laugh Institute with the final outcome being a new book project that i’m affectionately calling the laughterLife as inspired by the fourth stream of cyberSurreal subConsciousness from my graduate design thesis confounded: future fetish design performance for human advocacy

[: stay tuned :]

Want to participate in a Laugh Study?



introducing Random Acts of Laughter


OMFGawd! — today ranked in as one of the funniest, funnest April Fool’s Days EVER!

My very good friends and colleagues out at MobiquityRachael Stedman and Skylar Roebuck, the mad fucking geniuses that they are — took my rather broken dregs of an initial attempt to prototype a ‘Laugh Hotline’ concept I tried to throw together at Tufts Hackathon 2013 and really made it into something functional, fun and quite hilarious — i mean, this shit is FUNNY!

check out Random Acts of Laughter

Just enter your name and the target — er, ehm — recipient phone number you’d like to send a random laugh to and through the magic code expertise of Idea Squad Brain Trust { aka, Rachael Stedman, Skylar Roebuck and I … and any other Mobstrz that join our all powerful forces of hackage } the RAoL back-end servers randomly selects one of our hand-crafted audio laugh pre-recordings { generaously supplied by Laugh Institute } and sends it over with some light salutations to help brighten somebody’s life for a few ephemeral mobile moments

After just one day of our 2013 April Fool’s Day Beta Launch we’ve already received a barrage of random accolades and praise — just take a gander at what people are saying about Random Acts of Laughter:

One receiver of a random laugh immediately replied, ‘Oooh my goodness! I just sent this to myself and almost lost it — fun for the whole family!’

Another unsuspecting participant in our surprise mobile laugh intervention chimed in by saying, ‘Just had some moron/creep call my cell phone and leave a voice mail message. It was a Quincy number so I didn’t answer it. The message was just maniacal laughter. Creepy—like a deranged clown. Probably some idiot calling random numbers on his day off from Walmart.’

And finally, yet another delighted and mirthy victim of Random Acts of Laughter says, ‘Lolz!  So funny!’

Looking forward to more incredible evidence of the success, joy and positive energy we’re all feeling out here at the Idea Squad Brain Trust, the Laugh Institute and Mobiquity

Random Acts of LaughterMake ’em laugh