I've tried various methods of using AI to generate April Fools pranks for you to play on other people (although often they turned out to be pranks you play on yourself). But this is the first time I've tried to generate pranks for a computer to play.

I decided to try out the new Instruct variant of GPT-3, a giant internet-trained text-generating neural net that has been finetuned to be better at responding to written instructions.

I gave DaVinci, the largest version of GPT-3, the following instruction:

Write a list of harmless April Fool's Day pranks that your computer might play on you.

And here is its response:

The computer might change your desktop background to a picture of a clown.
The computer might change the volume on your speakers so that it is either very loud or very quiet.
The computer might open and close the CD drive randomly.
The computer might popup a message saying "You have been pranked!"

When I asked it to generate new lists, the clown desktop idea was often one of its first suggestions.

I did think these computer pranks were decent:

The computer might switch your mouse cursor to a banana.
The computer might change the font on all of your documents to Comic Sans.
All the text on your computer might be upside down.

But most of the prank ideas seemed to follow this kind of pattern:

Your computer might delete all of your bookmarks.
Your computer might change your home page to a website you don't like.
Your computer might make it so that you can't access certain websites.
Your computer might pop up a bunch of advertisements all over your screen.
Your computer might slow down significantly or crash altogether.
Your computer might change your default browser to a browser you don't like.
Your computer might open up a bunch of programs and windows all at once.

I tried a different prompt, and got a similar response:

List the top 10 most epic pranks a computer ever played on a human
1. The blue screen of death
2. The computer crashing
3. The computer freezing
4. The computer refusing to turn on
5. The computer making strange noises
6. The computer screen turning black
7. The computer screen turning white
8. The computer screen flickering
9. The computer displaying strange characters
10. The computer not responding to any input

The implication here is that computers think they're being hilarious.

GPT-3 seems unable to explain the joke in any way that I would understand.

Describe the most epic prank a computer ever played on a human and explain why it was hilarious.
The most epic prank a computer ever played on a human was when it tampered with a human's thermostat settings so that the human would experience extreme temperatures. The prank was hilarious because the human would be unable to control the temperature and would be forced to either swelter in the heat or freeze in the cold.

In the end, I got the most interesting prank ideas when I gave up on having GPT-3 Instruct generate my pranks from a short prompt, and instead used an older version of GPT-3 where I could have it complete a story:

It was the year 2065 and we had discovered that the best use of artificial intelligence is having it suggest jokes for us to play on ourselves. April Fools Day is a lot more bearable now that glitchy AIs, not corporations, are doing all of the planning. For 2065 you may choose from among these AI-approved pranks:
Dot spangle yourself at home. Charged-sticky-plasma mirrors spray black dots across your body, masking you into a series of spaces like a corner of a painting. What happens if you're in a cafeteria? All bets are off. Do try this on a Tuesday.
Put bacon in a thimble. Then enter the thimble. Spook those around you with thrashy, guttural bacon snorts. Accidents will happen.
Put tape around the edge of a cloud. Then time-travel into the past. Watch whole civilizations grow mystified as to what you are doing there. Don't go too far back in time—our servers aren't insured for that.
At a pet store, ask what the difference is between a small dog dressed as a cat and a regular dog. Watch the shopkeepers change the subject.
Learn how to pucker. Note how the word looks different today. Upload a pucker emoji to your face. Explain to everyone how the word must be spelled with an umlaut and that you are proud to introduce it. The swirl of dots will delight. Just how proud is hard to say.
The next time someone is making a serious speech, stand up and shout, "Do you hear the chickens?!" They won't. Run away.
Put your hand on your head and insist you are a newt. Meetings will be taken up all day by politicking over whether you are, in fact, a newt. Newts will take credit for your contributions. You will still get nothing done.
Achieve hover status. Everyone else will want to hover, but can't. Watch as they spend all day wondering why they can't hover. The high is unbeatable.

I did try using the smallest version of GPT-3, Ada, in Instruct mode. Its responses to my prompts were nigh incomprehensible.

List the top 10 most hilarious pranks a computer ever played on a human
A machine that will only Neptune arrive if it chirps at all.
A computer was given a toenail a day service.
A computer was given a chive stem from an daisy stem.
A computer thatvampires your spectacles and tricked you into taking it to a doctor.
A computer officials phrase “ GROSS! ” after he had been reported fortunate to have a emphasizing tooth

Bonus content: more prank ideas from Ada!

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