Colorado Scientist Helps Artificial Intelligence Learn To Flirt

Artificial intelligence is learning to flirt thanks to Colorado scientist Janelle Shane.

Video Transcript

KELLY WERTHMANN: I'm Kelly Werthmann in the CBSN Denver studio. Recently on "The Late Show," Stephen Colbert talked about a Colorado scientist who taught artificial intelligence how to generate pick-up lines. Just listen to some of the results.

STEPHEN COLBERT: Can I see your parts list? It is urgent that you become a professional athlete. 2017 rugboat two-tone neck tie shirt. You look like a thing, and I love you. Hey, my name is John Smith. Will you sit on my breadbox while I cook, or is there some kind of speed limit on that thing?"

KELLY WERTHMANN: There's no shortage of entertainment with that guy. Well, joining me now is the brains behind these funny, flirtatious sayings, Colorado research scientist and author Janelle Shane. So Janelle, thank you so much for being with us. I mean, my goodness, I'm laughing watching that over again. I'm curious, what was your reaction to some of your AI study being used on "The Late Show." And did you see it when it aired?

JANELLE SHANE: I did not. I found out about it later. And I think the best part for me actually was the laughing in the background and the fact that he couldn't keep a straight face during some of them, like that makes me feel pretty proud.

KELLY WERTHMANN: Absolutely. I don't know how anybody can keep a straight face. What was it, I like your face or something about that. I just think it's great. So let's talk about your study in layman's terms. How did you even come up with this idea?

JANELLE SHANE: Well, this was actually something I had tried a couple of years ago with a much simpler AI. And it had come up with some kind of garbled things that, you know, it couldn't quite even string a sentence together with real words. And so I would get things like, you know, you must be a tringle because you're the only thing here. You know, tringle, what's that? We don't know. It was making-- trying to sound like English.

And so I wanted to see what would happen if I tried these-- this experiment again on a much more modern AI, so something that had been trained on a lot of internet text, knew a lot about English language. Would its pick-up lines start sounding really human, or would they be way different?

KELLY WERTHMANN: So how does it all work, Janelle? How did this come together?

JANELLE SHANE: So this is-- what I was using this time was a-- it's a kind of AI that looked at a lot of internet text and learned how to predict what comes next in any given chunk of internet text. You'd give it the beginning of an article, the beginning of a sentence. It has to try to guess what the rest of that is like.

So it will, in theory, know if it's doing a cooking blog or if it's doing a news report or even what the topic of that news report is and what kind of characters and countries it should involve in that. So with the pick-up lines, you know, my guess was that it had seen enough examples of lists of pick-up lines on the internet that once I gave it the introduction of, these are the top pick-up lines of 2021, for example-- here's number one, period-- and let it fill in the rest of that text, my guess was that is going to know what a list of pick-up lines should look like and be able to fill in the rest from this internet training.

KELLY WERTHMANN: Well, I came up with, you look like a thing, and I love you. So I don't know what that says about pick-up lines, but I like that one. Now, we also stumbled upon some of those one-word candy heart messages that were also generated from AI. Some of those results include evil, unbelief, and yeet. So how long have you generated these Valentine's Day hearts? They are interesting to say the least.

JANELLE SHANE: Yeah, well, you know, I've had a lot of fun with those because back when these algorithms were a lot simpler, these short phrases were still something it could kind of do. I mean, one of the things it came up with was "love 2000 hogs yeah." So you know, or another one was like, "ball glove."

But it could kind of do it, even the simpler-- even the simpler algorithms could handle that. So that's why I keep returning to candy hearts to kind of see how they're getting along and see if they're getting any more humanlike or staying weird.

KELLY WERTHMANN: Well, do you have any other fun projects, weird projects, that are in the works?

JANELLE SHANE: Oh, you know, I always have-- I always have a lot of fun just with whatever the latest memes are. So I had-- you know, there was a need going around saying, caution to people you know, just because you're vaccinated, that doesn't mean it's OK to, and then people would fill in the blank.

So I gave this meme to this AI, which had not-- which had been trained before COVID existed. So it was really interesting to see what we'd come up with as what you could still not do if you were vaccinated. And it came up with, you cannot rub vanilla cream all over your body and then change your species. So--

KELLY WERTHMANN: Well, that's-- I mean, you can't, so I guess that's true. But that's awesome. And you know, I got to ask one last question for you, Janelle. Of all these pick-up lines that have been generated, are you aware if anybody's actually used them?

JANELLE SHANE: You know, the one time I know somebody successfully used a pick-up line was when they happened to be connected on one of these internet sites with someone else who had also read the pick-up lines and responded with an AI pick-up line of their own. And so I think they hit it off through that.

KELLY WERTHMANN: Well, that's awesome. Look at you, making connections, and AI is helping all the way. Well, thank you so much, Janelle, for your time. And if you want to follow more AI humor, we have all the information at We'll be right back.