(Pie -> cat courtesy of https://affinelayer.com/pixsrv/ )

I work with neural networks, which are a type of machine learning computer program that learn by looking at examples. They’re used for all sorts of serious applications, like facial recognition and ad targeting and language translation. I, however, give them silly datasets and ask them to do their best.

So, for my latest experiment, I collected the titles of 2237 sweet and savory pie recipes from a variety of sources including Wikipedia and David Shields. I simply gave them to a neural network with no explanation (I never give it an explanation) and asked it to try to generate more.

Its very first attempt left something to be desired, but it had figured out that "P”, “i”, and “e” were important somehow.

e Piee i m t iee ic
ic Pa ePeeetae a e
eee ema iPPeaia eieer
i i
i ie
e eciie
Pe eaei a

Second checkpoint. Progress: Pie.

Pie Pee Pie
Pimi Pie Pim Cue Pie Pie (er Wie
Pae Pim Piu Pie Pim Piea Cre
Pia Pie Pim Pim
Pie Pie Piee Pie Piee

This is expected, since the word “pie” is both simple and by far the most common word in the dataset. It stays in the stage above for rather a while, able to spell only “Pie” and nothing else. It’s like evolution trying to get past the single-celled organism stage. After 4x more time has elapsed, it finally adds a few more words: “apple”, “cream”, and “tart”. Then, at the sixth checkpoint, “pecan”.

Seventh checkpoint: These are definitely pies. We are still working on spelling “strawberry”, however.

Boatin Batan Pie
Shrawberry Pie With An Cream Pie Cream Pie
Sweesh Pie Ipple Pie
Wrasle Cream Pie
Swrawberry Pie Cream Pie
Sae Fart Tart
Cheem Pie Sprawberry Cream Pie Cream Pie

10th checkpoint. Still working.

Coscard Pie
Tluste Trenss Pie Wot
Oag’s Apple Pie
Daush Flumberry O
Rutter Chocklnd Apple Rhupperry pie
Flonberry Peran Pie
Blumbberry Cream Pie
Futters Whabarb Wottiry Rasty Pasty Kamphible Idponsible Swarlot Cream Cream Cront

16th checkpoint. Showing some signs of improvement? Maybe. It thinks Qtrupberscotch is a thing.

Buttermitk Tlreed whonkie Pie
Spiatake Bog Pastry
Taco Custard Pie
Apple Pie With Pharf Calamed apple Freech Fodge
Cranberry Rars
Farb Fart
Feep-Lisf Pie With Qpecisn-3rnemerry Fluit Turd
Turbyy Raisin Pie
Forp Damelnut Pie
Flazed Berry Pie
Figi’s Chicken Sugar Pie
Sauce and Butterm’s Spustacian Pie Fill Pie With Boubber Pie Bok Pie
Booble Rurble Shepherd’s Parfate
Ner with Cocoatu Vnd Pie Iiakiay Coconate Meringue Pie With Spiced Qtrupberscotch Apple Pie
Bustard Chiffon Pie

Finally we arrive at what, according to the neural network, is Peak Pie. It tracks its own progress by testing itself against the original dataset and scoring itself, and here is where it thinks it did the best.

It did in fact come up with some that might actually work, in a ridiculously-decadent sort of way.

Baked Cream Puff Cake
Four Cream Pie
Reese’s Pecan Pie
Fried Cream Pies
Eggnog Peach Pie #2
Fried Pumpkin Pie
Whopper pie
Rice Krispie-Chiffon Pie
Apple Pie With Fudge Treats
Marshmallow Squash Pie
Pumpkin Pie with Caramelized Pie
Butter Pie

But these don’t sound very good actually.

Strawberry Ham Pie
Vegetable Pecan Pie
Turd Apple Pie Fillings
Pin Truffle Pie
Fail Crunch Pie Crust
Turf Crust
Pot Beep Pies Crust
Florid Pumpkin Pie
Parades Or Meat Pies Or Cake #1
Milk Harvest Apple Pie
Ice Finger Sugar Pie
Amazon Apple Pie
Prize Wool Pie
Snood Pie
Turkey Cinnamon
Almond-Pumpkin Pie With Fingermilk
Pumpkin Pie With Cheddar Cookie
Fish Strawberry Pie
Butterscotch Bean Pie
Impossible Maple Spinach Apple Pie
Strawberry-Onions Marshmallow Cracker Pie Filling
Caribou Meringue Pie

And I have no what these are:

Stramberiy Cheese Pie
The pon Pie
Dississippi Mish
Boopie Crust
Liger Strudel
Free pie
Sneak Pie
Tear pie
Basic France Pie
Baked Trance pie
Shepherd’s Finger Tart
Buster’s Fib Lemon Pie
Worf Butterscotch Pie
Scent Whoopie
Grand Prize Winning I*iple
Cromberry Yas
Law-Ox Strudel
Surf Pie, Blue Ulter Pie - Pitzon’s
Flangerson’s Blusty Tart
Fresh Pour Pie
Mur’s Tartless Tart

More of the neural network’s attempts to understand what humans like to eat:

Perhaps my favorite: Small Sandwiches

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