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This Neural Network Hilariously Does Not Understand What Humans Like to Eat

Whole Chicken Cookies.


A year ago, scientist Janelle Shane made a post on Tumblr detailing the wacky food names her neural network was generating after she fed it a healthy diet of cookbooks. The post has seen a viral surge of popularity and coverage, and in true 2017 Internet fashion, people are identifying as one delicacy or another. Tag yourself—I’m “Crimm Grunk Garlic Cleas.”

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As Shane explains in an earlier post about the project,

Neural networks are computer learning algorithms that mimic the interconnected neurons of a living brain, managing astonishing feats of image classification, speech recognition, or music generation by forming connections between simulated neurons.

Intrigued at the potentials, Shane fired up a neural network and trained it with 30MB of recipes in a bid to have the network come up with its own. And sometimes, the neural network gets rather … creative.

There’s a creativity variable I can set when the network is generating new recipes, and when I set it low, it comes up with its best guess at the most quintessential recipe titles:

Cream Cheese Soup
Cream Of Sour Cream Cheese Soup
Chocolate Cake (Chocolate Cake)
Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Chicken Chicken Cake
Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Cake

But those weren’t the results that made the post go viral. No, it was after Shane had the network turn its “creativity variable” up past eleven:

When I tell it to get creative, things get even weirder.

Beef Soup With Swamp Peef And Cheese
Chocolate Chops & Chocolate Chips
Crimm Grunk Garlic Cleas
Beasy Mist
Export Bean Spoons In Pie-Shell, Top If Spoon and Whip The Mustard
Chocolate Pickle Sauce
Whole Chicken Cookies
Salmon Beef Style Chicken Bottom
Star *
Cover Meats
Out Of Meat
Completely Meat Circle
Completely Meat Chocolate Pie
Cabbage Pot Cookies
Artichoke Gelatin Dogs
Crockpot Cold Water

To be fair, Shane’s neural network has learned a ton and continues to refine its knowledge. It’s already better at recipes than I am, and there’s a wealth of other interesting experiments on Shane’s blog, Postcards from the Edge of Science.

But something about these food names has really struck a chord. While people appear to be most thrilled about concoctions like “Beef Soup With Swamp Peef And Cheese” and “Whole Chicken Cookies,” I don’t know, I’m still feeling “Crimm Grunk Garlic Cleas.” Which one are you?

(via Tumblr, image via Shutterstock)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.

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