I had SO MUCH FUN on this episode. Seriously I don’t think I’ve ever laughed this hard on a podcast.

The icing on the cake was when I got to train the GPT-2 neural net on their past show transcripts, and when Lauren and Gretchen acted the hell out of the resulting script.

And Robo-Lingthusiasm was trying SO HARD to be enthusiastic about linguistics. And in classic neural net fashion it did produce transcripts that read a lot like real Lingthusiasm episodes. It was just also very wrong about linguistics. And about everything else.

Gretchen: I’m Gretchen Gawne, and I’m here today in Gretchen’s hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland as Gretchen McCulloch, and today we’re getting enthusiastic about our first anniversary.
Lauren: We’re very excited to be standing next to you in a very celebratory and beautiful, pink, velour, mini-van-sized van.

(Gawne is Lauren’s last name, not Gretchen’s, Gretchen McCulloch’s hometown is not Edinburgh, and they do not to my knowledge own a pink velour van, nor are they standing next to me in it)

In order to get a transcript that sounded like their show (rather than the generic internet text that GPT-2 was originally trained on) I had to turn the model’s creativity way down, which meant we got things like this soup loop:

Gretchen: How do we spell ‘soup?’?
Lauren: I had to say ‘soup.’ in the first ten or so minutes of this episode because I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I just can’t spell ‘soup.’”
Gretchen: ‘Oh, my gosh, I just can’t spell ‘soup.’”
Lauren: ‘Oh, my gosh, I just cannot spell ‘soup.’”
Gretchen: ‘Oh, my gosh, I just cannot spell ‘soup.’”
Lauren: ‘Oh, my gosh, I do not know how to spell ‘soup.”
Gretchen: I know how to spell ‘soup.’.
Lauren: ‘Oh, my gosh, I have never been able to spell ‘soup.’”

Gretchen: Yeah, and I looked at my watch, and I could see the words on it glinting in the light, and it was “soup.”
Lauren: “Soup.”
Gretchen: And I was like, ‘Oh, my god, I can’t even spell ‘soup.’”
Lauren: I was like, ‘Oh, I can sort of spell it, but I’m not able to spell ‘soup.’”

Robo-Lingthusiam tended to stick with topics like spelling and nouns vs verbs, which are not things the actual Lingthusiasm podcast spends much time on, but maybe it was easier for the neural net because it had seen more of that kind of stuff online. It’s a really vivid illustration of how AI can be overcautious and ignore a lot of the richness and complexity of its training data in favor of being as correct as possible.

I’m posting a couple of more transcripts as bonus material, which you can get by becoming a supporter of AI Weirdness.

Subscribe now

You should definitely listen to my interview on Lingthusiasm, where I get into lots of detail about training AI on language. If you want to hear almost an hour’s worth of Gretchen and Lauren reading the soup loop and other Robo-Lingthusiasm excerpts, become a patron of Lingthusiasm (it’s worth it, it’s such an interesting show).

Subscribe now