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Neural network invents its own disarmingly cute pick-up lines

Pick-up lines so rarely seem like a good idea, but if you really can’t meet new people without sidling up to them at a bar with a pre-packaged line, at least you’ve got a new excuse if one of them bombs — “a robot wrote it.” Research scientist Janelle Shane has trained a neural network framework to generate its own pick-up lines, feeding it a dataset that included existing lines, and training it to look for patterns.

Shane’s neural network has previously produced recipes, generated the names of new Pokémon and superheroes, and dreamed up new Irish songs titles, but she said that gathering the pick-up line data was “much more painful” than she had expected. “Most were obscene, or aggressive, or kind of insulting,” she wrote on her blog, saying that she began to regret the project. But while her network figured out the basic forms of the pick-up line — things like “hey baby” and “you must be a…” — it mercifully didn’t produce the kind of nastiness that characterizes the form.

A good percentage of them came out garbled, with broken grammar or nonsense words, but they at least avoid upsetting the intending target. “You must be a tringle? Cause you’re the only thing here,” might baffle someone into stunned silence, but it isn’t likely to offend, while “I have a cenver? Because I just stowe must your worms” sounds like it’s ripped straight from the Canterbury Tales.

But others somehow work better than their source material, coming off as both impossibly earnest and undeniably cute. “You are so beautiful that you make me feel better to see you” is a disarmingly heartfelt statement of attraction, and “I want to see you to my heart” is an admission of vulnerability you might not expect to hear from a stranger four beers deep.

Some of the phrases hint at their robotic origin. “I don’t know you” is perhaps the robot playing hard to get, while “You look like a thing and I love you” swings the other way, setting the bar low for romantic interest.

Most impressively though, Shane’s neural network was able to take in all the terrible puns and inappropriate jokes, and independently come up with by far the most effective line to utter if you hope to meet, charm, and fall in love with someone at a bar:

“Hello.”


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