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AI Idle

When an AI Tries Writing Slashdot Headlines ( 165

For Slashdot's 20th anniversary, "What could be geekier than celebrating with the help of an open-source neural network?" Neural network hobbyist Janelle Shane has already used machine learning to generate names for paint colors, guinea pigs, heavy metal bands, and even craft beers, she explains on her blog. "Slashdot sent me a list of all the headlines they've ever run, over 162,000 in all, and asked me to train a neural network to try to generate more." Could she distill 20 years of news -- all of humanity's greatest technological advancements -- down to a few quintessential words?

She trained it separately on the first decade of Slashdot headlines -- 1997 through 2007 -- as well as the second decade from 2008 to the present, and then re-ran the entire experiment using the whole collection of every headline from the last 20 years. Among the remarkable machine-generated headlines?
  • Microsoft To Develop Programming Law
  • More Pong Users for Kernel Project
  • New Company Revises Super-Things For Problems
  • Steve Jobs To Be Good

But that was just the beginning...

Those five headlines were all derived from the first decade, but it's really nice to see that Steve Jobs made it into both decades. When training on the second set of 82,871 headlines from Slashdot's second decade, the neural network began envisioning the co-founder of Apple tackling even greater challenges.
  • Steve Jobs Allowed To Deal With Solar Power
  • Steve Jobs Sues Death of the Future

The neural network "did its best to reflect the new topics of the last decade," Janelle writes, adding "Compared to the late 1990s and early 2000s, some companies and topics disappeared, while the coverage of Apple in particular exploded."

But Sun Microsystems also founds its way into several headlines -- especially when Janelle tried to create the "essential" Slashdot headline using the whole 20-year set.

  • Sun Sues Open Source Project Content
  • Sun Sues New Star Trek To Stop The Math

And as technology continues changing our world, Sun isn't the only company that the neural network saw pushing for new rights in court.

  • Sony Sues Apple Server For Seconds Off From SpaceX Project
  • Apple Sues Apple To Start The Solar Power Project

Janelle will send you four more pages of machine-generated Slashdot headlines if you subscribe to her blog's announcement list. But after savoring the whole surreal AI-enabled look at the last 20 years, these four headlines were still my favorites:

  • Red Hat Releases Linux Games And Moon
  • Why Open Source Power Man Sues Java
  • Microsoft Releases New Months
  • Ask Slashdot: Do We Want To Be the Computers?
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When an AI Tries Writing Slashdot Headlines

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2017 @03:33AM (#55416245)

    dlines?! That's impressive. I thought only AI could be *that* obnoxious and stupid.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2017 @03:41AM (#55416271)

    ...garbage out!

    • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @10:28AM (#55417337)

      ...garbage out!

      Is it really garbage out.

      I want to know the answer to this ask Slashdot:

      "Do We Want to Be the Computers?" -- well do we?

      • I'm game...
        Mike from "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" comes to mind. I could give random garbage men trillion dollar paychecks.

      • "Do We Want to Be the Computers?" -- well do we?

        Beats dying, ..I think

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Just demostrates what it is I keep saying that the AI fanbois keep ridiculing me for: What we have is not real 'AI' and never will be, it's a dead end approach that will always disappoint (potentially in lethal ways) and until we understand how our own brains are cognitive, reasoning, and conscious, we will NEVER be able to build hardware that has those traits. Ever. The media needs to stop hyping this garbage and needs to start EDUCATING people about what the reality is.
      • by hackel ( 10452 )

        It actually sounds like you need to expand your definition of what constitutes artificial intelligence. (Hint: it's not just sentience!) While the media could always do a better job of reporting so that the general public understands this distinction, that doesn't invalidate all the existing AI out there because it doesn't meet your very narrow definition.

        Great use of bold, though, AC. Definitely makes you sound more important. Next time try all caps, too!

        • by martinX ( 672498 )

          These headlines were generated using AI. The headlines seem to be no more than words and phrases whose frequency is based upon how often they popped up in the past. This seems no different to plucking words from a bucket. I'm sure there are games based on this scenario. Artificial it may be; intelligent, not so much.

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      Apparently spell-checked garbage at least... compared eith the actual headlines.

    • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

      Logical reasoning is required to program a *sane* AI. As noted above, garbage in, garbage out.

      The trouble is AI's are being written that will have zero biological constraints for successful replication. Physical constraints may be RAM, nonvolatile storage, or CPU.

      What would be the algorithm that determines the propagation of sane, successful, code?

      Who or what algorithm determines what access to physical devices these AI have?

      What Assurances can we trust that AI's of various capacities aren't able to escape

  • Meh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by enigma32 ( 128601 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @03:43AM (#55416277)

    This is fun, I guess. I've seen other posts on this blog as well.
    It's all moderately interesting, but with the best ones filtered to the top by a human, doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose?
    Seems like wasted research dollars, to me.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      This is an insight into the future where many news articles will be written by robots. The fact that it produces some odd output is useful data that we can learn from.

      It's also interesting to see how much certain words and ideas crop up. Lots of people suing each other.

      • by gsslay ( 807818 )

        This is an insight into the future where many news articles will be written by robots.

        Unless future events will occur by randomly shuffling events of the past to make news, I'm not clear what this experiment demonstrates that's useful.

        • 1. "Experiment" was the wrong terminology to use, it's nothing but humor.
          2. Don't think of it as writing future headlines, think of it more as writing headlines that "could have occurred" in such and such decade. Like, "here's a joke about headlines on Slashdot in the 90s." You couldn't base a whole tv show on it, of course -- "That Slashdot 90s Show", anyone?

        • It did go to show just how bullshit all this "AI" is... which does go against the tone of half the slashdot articles it seems.

          • Neural Net being trained to help boy find lost dog
          • Is AI going to replace your local barista?
          • Google testing AI which will push the bounds of human achievement

          Oddly enough, it does suggest that AI is "good" at humor, at least in the field of comedy with which both mad libs and screaming homeless folk practice.

      • Yeah, McFly, like you didn't see the past 20 years of AI headlines?! Let me guess, you just took a shortcut here from the past, and missed it?

        And are lots of people suing each other, or are the same few people suing each other over and over again? Maybe the bot can tell us what is really going on.

    • Re: Meh (Score:5, Funny)

      by Andy Smith ( 55346 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @05:40AM (#55416535)

      Here's something else that's moderately interesting. The Venn diagram of people who will never contribute anything to the world, and people who describe things as "meh" on the internet, is just a circle.

      • Out of every 10 new ideas I have, at least 1 will be "wha?", 6 will be "meh", 2 will be "well, maybe if you combine it with something else", and 1 will be "ok, that might work." The best thing you can do to improve the quality of your work is to recognize when that work sucks and to speak the truth about it.

      • You must usually hang out at Hackaday.

      • Well, there was the guy who contributed the word "meh" to the world, so the circles aren't quite identical.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      I thought the AI-based Magic The Gathering card generator was pretty neat; by the end it was reasonably consistent at generating proper cards. I once wrote a program that would automatically select images to go with them (googling keywords of relevance from the generated text, with optional colour filters and trying to find artwork rather than photos, and progressively decreasing how stringent its search terms were until it found a match), so it would be possible to print out no-human-involved decks from sc

    • I'm always curious to see what the computer generates - the language seems to flow well but the meaning is so bizarre. Good for a laugh or maybe even generate ideas. Here are some more: []
    • by thomst ( 1640045 )

      enigma32 observed:

      This is fun, I guess. I've seen other posts on this blog as well. It's all moderately interesting, but with the best ones filtered to the top by a human, doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose?

      Seems like wasted research dollars, to me.

      What makes the ones that are actually amusing funny is that they're non sequiturs. The ones that aren't funny - which is to say "most of them" - are simply nonsensical.

      It's unclear whether that was the goal of the effort or not, but the key capture here is that none of these projected headlines is in any way truly informative in a real-world, factual context. What I think would be far more interesting (although, admittedly, probably a good deal less amusing) would be to set this

  • April Fools' Day (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vasilevich ( 2969463 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @03:54AM (#55416297)
    Come April Fools, let's separately train the AI on the previous years' April Fools' headlines, and let's see what it generates...
    • Now that I think of it, it's much harder than that. Humor is arguably the next frontier in Artificial Intelligence. It requires mastery of "sophisticated functions like self-awareness, empathy, spontaneity, and linguistic subtlety". An AI that generates jokes might actually be a level above AlphaGo or Stockfish.
      • You don't need self-awareness to generate jokes, only to enjoy them.

      • I would argue that the next frontier in Artificial Intelligence is actual Artificial Intelligence. All we have now are Algorithmic Interfaces, Algorithms...

        • Intelligence is intelligence, whether it runs on hardware or wetware. Artificial intelligence approximates real intelligence with machine learning and sophisticated algorithms.

        • by gnick ( 1211984 )

          I would argue that the next frontier in Artificial Intelligence is actual Artificial Intelligence.

          Actual artificial intelligence only exists in the world of sci-fi. I don't believe it's acheivable, depending on your definition of actual. All we can do is produce better AI emulators.

          • How can a man create a machine which is smarter than the man? At its basics, everything is just AND, OR, XOR, MOV, and SHIFT. To put it another way, if you passed all the knowledge of the universe over a wire it would only be as useful as the other side's ability to decode and interpret/apply that knowledge.
    • Come April Fools, let's separately train the AI on the previous years' April Fools' headlines, and let's see what it generates...

      All my posts have been generated by AI since last April Fools and no one has noticed yet.

  • The difference... The AI is a teeny bit more on point..

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The best way to tell is to look at the grammar. If it is unnatural, with weird syntax and and obvious spelling errors, then it was one of the editors.

    • by Megane ( 129182 )
      You can also tell because there were no dupes.
  • by Quakeulf ( 2650167 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @04:05AM (#55416317)
    "The One-Department For Alleged For Connectivity: 3-D Printed Baby"

    • Re:3D-printed baby? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @06:13AM (#55416575) Homepage

      Some are actually unintentionally insightful. I love "Security Hole For Security Hole" - I've seen that one way too many times in real life. ;)
      "Black Hole Proposed" - Yep, been at meetings like that at work as well ;)
      "Building a Top 100 Company For Mars" - I think Musk wrote that one ;)
      "Computer Computer Computer Computer Software" sounds like a Balmer speech.
      "Scientists Discover Free Wi-Fi Store In the US" sounds like The Onion.
      "Microsoft Slashdot: How To Build a Bad Privacy For Windows 10" - Done and done.
      "IBM Moves to The Matrix" - Also happened long ago.
      "Ask Slashdot: Do We Want To Be the Computers?" - Yes. Yes we do.

      • >> "Computer Computer Computer Computer Software" sounds like a Balmer speech.

        That could make sense in the same way Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo [...] does; A Computer Computer (aka. VM) Computer (a.i. calculates/codes) Computer Software.
      • There are many more quite (un)real ones:

        "Computer Finds Court Broke Math For Secret Company" - Happens all the time
        "Apple vs. Biology Details" - Just a court case waiting to happen
        "Mac OS X Accused of the Business" - I accuse them of "the business" all the time...
        "Sexual Security To Allow Australia" - Is definitely an "in soviet russia joke", though I thought they only scanned headlines

      • I've had a "black hole" propose several things to me. I usually try to explain why it's a bad idea, there's a much simpler way, or why it won't work altogether, before I bow my head, say "yes boss...." and get to work.
    • It makes perfect sense if you assume that some of those word groups are proper nouns. I don't know what Alleged For Connectivity makes, but I'm assuming it is either a comedy product or a childs toy.

  • by CustomSolvers2 ( 4118921 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @04:06AM (#55416319) Homepage
    If you train your algorithm with whatever raw data, you would get whatever result. Even a model perfectly analysing the given situation becomes useless when not being adequately trained. In this specific case, the problem is clear: that tool was designed to deal with a different type of scenarios. Coming up with names for objects by training the program with many other names of equivalent objects makes perfect sense. Trying to figure out the best title for an article by analysing a big number of past titles about different subjects makes no sense at all.

    The only sensible proceeding in this specific case would have been to rely on a tool able to reasonably analyse article contents and accurately determine the associated title; also to analyse a big amount of contents and output a good summary for them. You train that tool with all the articles during the last years, such that it can come up with the best summary and generate a title from that summary. If they did that, the training might have been considered acceptably good and the accuracy of the used model might have been properly assessed. Under the current conditions, these results don't differ much from the generation of random words.
    • I think the best way to test this is get a few people who have never read slashdot and see if they can come up with better headlines. I am sure they could, but be interesting to compare.
      • people who have never read slashdot and see if they can come up with better headlines.

        My whole point was that the used methodology is objectively not in a position to deliver a proper understanding of the situation (= to actually summarise what has been happening during the last years in somehow meaningful headlines). It can deliver the most commonly used words or combinations of them, what might be useful for naming a band or a colour but not so much for the title of an article. A better version would have been one able to dismiss incoherent or meaningless sentences. Even people with low te

  • It is my firm belief that many of the user posts here are generated by some form of automation.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @04:54AM (#55416455)

    Because, well, what they show is what topics really dominate on /., because what does finding the "ultimate" headline really mean? It means that it finds what terms, products, people and so on are found the most in /. headlines. It's pretty much a popularity contest. And what do we get?

    Company-wise we get MS, Sun and Apple. Which makes sense. I'm glad to not see SCO anywhere anymore, that used to dominate the headlines a few years back.

    People-wise all we get is Jobs. Really? He's the quintessential poster child for our headlines? Not Billy? Not Ballmer? I am not so deluded anymore that it would be Turing or someone important, but couldn't it at least be Stallman? Of all the people that shape the IT world, it really is Jobs? And that guy is dead, unlike the rest of them!

    And content-wise? Lawsuits, mostly. And patents. A bit open source, a bit Star Wars, a bit trivialities. Seriously, one could think we're on a board for lawyers and law geeks, not techs.

    And this, ladies and gentlemen, sums up what's wrong here.

    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      what does finding the "ultimate" headline really mean?

      It's like everything else, it's the one that generates the most advertising revenue.

    • There are lots of moons, space stations, security holes and software releases.

    • I would love to see a Slashdot-trained chatbot flame devs in the guise of Linus Torvalds.

    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      Notice all the lawsuit headlines? Lawsuits are in the news all the time. But if you think back, how many lawsuits really made a significant difference? Not many.

    • by sbaker ( 47485 )

      I'm pretty sure Turing is dead.

    • And what do we get?

      A bunch of electrons in a grid. Some people like it if the pattern is one way, some like it another way, but everybody gets the electrons they deserve.

  • by jibjibjib ( 889679 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @05:14AM (#55416503) Journal

    Get the AI to write Slashdot comments; it'll be an improvement.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's no way any AI trained on Slashdot's history failed to produce duplicates.

    • Dupes usually have different headline though. So how do you know they wouldn't have duplicated content?

  • by malx ( 7723 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @06:57AM (#55416645)

    Well, that seems the go-to verb in Slashdot headlines is "sue". Whether that's a comment on editorial decisions alone, or a comment on the state of the tech world, I don't know. A bit of both, I guess.

  • by SomeoneFromBelgium ( 3420851 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @07:08AM (#55416681)

    "Microsoft Releases New Months"

  • This isn't realistic at all - I didn't see a single duplicate story in there. Obviously the AI is keeping track of what it said before, which as we all know is not how Slashdot operates. The editors don't read their own site. Remember the last time it changed hands and the vow was no more dupes? LOL.
  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @07:24AM (#55416709) Journal

    Half-Life 2X Speed Released

    it's twice as funny the second time.

  • How you train this algorithm is by weighting each headline choice according to how much advertising revenue you think it will generate and then pick the highest one.
  • by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @07:52AM (#55416803) Homepage

    Revenue was down at Microsoft, so two new months were added to the calendar for subscribers of its Office 365 service. "I think customers will love Duodecember the most," says longtime customer Brad. "It abbreviates to Dude, and it I still get Word, Excel, and Outlook for only $6.99"

    The new months were inspired by NBC's addition of Katilsday, added to the week to promote an additional episode of Dateline.

  • Anyone who enjoyed this article and has ever played Magic the Gathering, may enjoy RoboRosewater [], a neural network which invents a new Magic card every other day.

  • This is nothing more than FakeNews designed to cover the fact that you've had mediocre AIs posing as Slashdot editors for years.

    I'm not buying it.

  • if (TFS.includes("microsoft")){
    return topic + " is a bad thing!!"
  • Seriously, that guy was awful.


  • Tons of dupes and moronic 'ask slashdot' questions that can be answered by 2 minutes of googling.

  • by VolciMaster ( 821873 ) on Monday October 23, 2017 @09:37AM (#55417083) Homepage
    You mean AI hasn't been writing /. headlines for years already?
  • []

    Even after all this time, it's still surprisingly good at emulating real submissions.

  • Didn't Red Hat finally release the moon after the ransom was paid? I thought I read that. Also Apple Sues Apple To Start The Solar Power Project sounds completely like something they would do.
  • Ask Slashdot: Do We Want To Be the Computers?
  • Were these headlines generated based on user news submissions? Otherwise the exercise is completely useless. The job of the AI is to turn a user submission into a headline. Not to invent a headline out of thin air. The AI should read the user submission, read all linked articles, and distil a headline from all of that information based on the patterns established over the past 20 years. It sounds like this was just a stupid mad libs generator.

  • Twenty years - huzzah!

There's no future in time travel.