Neural Networks Produce Weird Word Combinations For Your Valentine : The Salt Computer programs known as neural networks learn by example. So a researcher plugged in some typical Valentine's Day candy heart messages — and got some weird new word combos. "BEAR WIG," anyone?

Candy Heart Messages Getting Stale? Computer-Generated Options Are No Help

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Be mine.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Oh, baby.

SHAPIRO: Hot stuff.

KELLY: These are just some of the messages you would find from a box of candy hearts. You know, the kind you get on Valentine's Day.

SHAPIRO: But what if you got messages like this?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: My hag.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Or my bun.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Fan me.

KELLY: Those sweet nothings come from Janelle Shane - well, from her computer at least.

SHAPIRO: She's a research scientist who works with neural networks. Those are computer programs that learn by example.

KELLY: Like facial recognition or translation software.

SHAPIRO: Just for fun, Janelle Shane fed her program a dataset with 360 actual candy heart messages - you know, hot stuff, be mine, et cetera.

KELLY: And the program generated its own candy heart messages, a whole bunch more.

SHAPIRO: Prolific - yes. Heartwarming - maybe.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Love bun.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: Cute kiss.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #5: You are babe.

KELLY: OK, so some of those do have potential. Others, though, were downright strange.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #6: Bear wig.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #7: Stank love.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #8: You are bag.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Sweat poo.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Fang.

SHAPIRO: It's not just candy hearts. Janelle Shane has run algorithms with other lists, too, like guinea pigs' names.

KELLY: Pop Chop. Fuzzable. Death Sniffs. Death Sniffs the guinea pig, Ari. Yeah.

SHAPIRO: That's not going to be named that any time soon.

KELLY: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: She also tried paint swatch colors.

JANELLE SHANE: And so it came up with a color named stanky (ph) bean. And like, it wasn't very good at that either.

SHAPIRO: Shane says there's actually a point in asking a neural network to take on all these odd tasks.

SHANE: Part of my experiments when I'm giving them these kind of silly data sets is to poke at the edges of what they're good at and what they're not so good at. How much do they really know about the problems that they're trying to solve?

KELLY: And those crazy candy messages - well, Janelle Shane says too late for this year, but they could still become a thing.

SHANE: No, I would be tempted to print some out for myself for next year, if nothing else, see what happens when I hand somebody a heart that says love 2,000 hogs yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WANT CANDY")

BOW WOW WOW: (Singing) She's got everything that I desire, sets the summer sun on fire. I want candy. I want candy.

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