Can an AI Draw for The New Yorker?

I couldn’t find a real cartoonist so I asked an artificial one

Paul Greenberg

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An AI’s rendering of the caption “A cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine draws a cartoon”

For the longest time I’ve had a lot of captions but no cartoons. What I mean to say is that I have what I think are really pretty funny punchlines that would make equally funny cartoons that The New Yorker would surely publish. All I need is someone to draw the cartoon because, to be honest, my art has never progressed beyond stick figures.

Now here’s a complicating matter. Technically I do have cartoonists. Several friends who can actually draw. I even have one cartoonist friend who has sold more than one cartoon to The New Yorker. But whenever I ask these cartoonist friends to illustrate my really funny captions they never seem to follow through. Actually they never get around to answering my emails.

Which was why for the first time in my life I decided to knowingly turn to Artificial Intelligence.

Now, a lot has been written about how AI’s can take a command like “Turn this mountain into something Monet would paint” or “Do a swan like Picasso would do it.” But I’ve yet to read an account of someone feeding in a funny caption to an AI and having the AI run with it. So let’s give it a try.

Here’s the set up of my cartoon:

We’re in an office. A cool and confident 20-something hipster approaches a 50-something senior employee who’s holding on to his job for dear life. The younger man asks the elder bluntly:

“Hey Bob, do you have a few minutes so I can pick your brain clean?”

Now I have many caption ideas but since this Medium post is generally about the anxiety of losing your job to something younger, I thought this would be the most appropriate caption for this particular column. And so, I won’t deny that I had a certain amount of schadenfreude when I simply put in the above caption and got this:

“Hey Bob, do you have a few minutes so I can pick your brain clean?”

I’m not quite sure what the AI is “thinking” here. Where’s Bob? Where’s the brain being picked clean? Clearly the AI doesn’t “get” the joke. But fair enough, it’s never worked in an office before. It…

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Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org