Can You Tell the Difference Between These AI-Generated Fortune Cookie Messages and the Real Thing?

Wednesday, 17 October 2018 - 12:01PM
Technology
Artificial Intelligence
Wednesday, 17 October 2018 - 12:01PM
Can You Tell the Difference Between These AI-Generated Fortune Cookie Messages and the Real Thing?
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Adapted from image by PIXNIO
When people talk about artificial intelligence taking human jobs, we didn't expect one of them to be "fortune cookie writer." Nevertheless, Alexander Reben's newly programmed AI has apparently mastered the vaguely poetic proverbs made famous by those hard little biscuits. Can you tell the difference?

"A half-truth is more mellow than wine."
"Being happy is not as serious as it appears."
"Remember, no matter how hard you try, there is an ocean you cannot change."
"A smile is your passport into the hearts of others."

Only the last one is a real fortune written by a human. The others were produced by Reben's AI, whose full collection can be seen here. If you'd like a print of one of these sayings, you can even order one from Reben's gallery. According to the artist himself: "I trained the system on thousands of fortune cookie fortunes. I scraped several databases of fortunes, and I've also been adding more into the corpus as I encounter them."

Strangely enough, this AI may have come at exactly the right time. In an article in Money last year, it was announced that Donald Lau, the chief fortune writer for Wonton Foods (one of the largest manufacturers of fortune cookies in the world), would be stepping down from his job after 30 years due to writer's block. 

Despite being found in nearly every Chinese restaurant across America, the "Chinese fortune cookie" probably isn't a traditional Chinese treat at all. Instead, it was created by Chinese immigrant David Jung in San Francisco...or Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese immigrant, or by an unnamed committee trying to reshape San Francisco's Chinatown into a tourist-friendly area, complete with its own signature dessert. No one knows the exact origins of the hard little cookie or its sage messages, but we like to imagine Reben trying to explain his little project to an ancient Chinese mystic.
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