Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tuna Fish

Yesterday, at supper, I looked over at Kyle and said....
You can tune a guitar and you can tune a piano but can you Tuna Fish?
At first he looked at me with a look that said "What is my crazy Dad talking about"? Then the light bulb went on and a great big grin broke across his face with a giggle.

Several years ago I got to hear James Burke speak at a conference in Denver. Burke is a technology historian who has done a book/audio/video series called Connections which traces the evolution of inventions from early history through today.

In that speech, which was at a computer related conference, he talked about how they have not yet developed great speech recognition software because the way we have a computer do things and the way a human brain works is quite different.

They typical way a computer processes speech is to hear a word, look it up, associate a meaning, then proceed to the next word, assembling the meaning as it hears the word.

Burke said that scientists think that the way our brain works is to hear a word and immediately build a decision tree (similar to the one below), eliminating branches of possible meanings as it hears the next word (my phone does this with letters in words if I put it into iTap mode). He also said (and this is where I tie it together), that the scientists believe that what makes a joke funny is that it takes a path not on that decision tree, causing the humor.

(*** This is Kyle and I approve this post ***)

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