Apparently, there’s a new computer program that can identify certain types of jokes within a body of text. Or so says the Wall Street Journal, if you can believe that rag.

The scientists gave their program a database of words and examples of how the words can be related to each other. When the program analyzes a passage, it uses that knowledge to find a word that doesn’t fit with the words around it. When an outlier appears, the program checks a pronunciation guide for similar-sounding words that would make better sense in the sentence. If a more logical term is identified, the program flags the sentence as a pun.

New Scientist offers the example of a boy who tells his mother that he has been in the garden so much because “teacher told me to weed a lot.” The program recognizes that “weed” doesn’t go well with “teacher” and that the similar-sounding “read” would be a better fit. As far as the scientists are concerned, the computer gets the joke.

This makes humor sound so technical and boring that I almost never want to hear another joke. It’s like someone explaining to you the chemical reasons that you have “the feelings” for a certain person, or telling you that candlelight isn’t really romantic, that there’s a physiological reason and it’s involuntary, and you’re like “shut up already!”

But still, maybe we should look at the practical implications of such technology…
If computers can apply logical processes in the service of recognizing jokes, maybe this can have implications for the online daters among us. Maybe a search engine could be specialized to weed out actual senses of humor from perceived senses of humor. Or we could enact the “personality filter” to generate a list of profiles where actually having a personality instead of having friend who think you’ve got a great personality ranks you higher in search results.

Oh, Brave New World. Send us the tools we need for success.