AI Writes Delightfully Nonsensical Carols, Invents Whole New Christmas Myth

Using a neural network to discover the holiday spirit.

Getty Images / Kris Connor

In what is apparently becoming an annual tradition, artificial intelligence is having a bash at writing Christmas carols. With lyrics like “Christmas br he, or the wang,” this neural network isn’t likely to come up with something to replace “Jingle Bells” anytime soon, but it did somehow dream up a whole new bit of Christmas folklore to rival Santa and Krampus.

As A.I researcher Janelle Shane explains on her site A.I. Weirdness, she rather cruelly forced a neural network to devise Christmas carols with literally no help — not only did it have no instructions, but it didn’t even start out knowing English. It just had a dataset of 240 carols to learn from, and it set about smashing together letters and comparing them to the existing carols to see what looked right and what didn’t, then repeating the process.

That lyric about Christmas or wang was part of one of the earlier attempts from this iterative process. Here’s the full carol it came up with:

Hart fon the be the he br wong on the stor Christmas br he, or the wang
Christ, Christ, on bn a me the stord
Hont on thr st bong the wor
I he a s de poog the stow tome on be ser snur

As you can see, a lot of those words aren’t words at all, though you can see the beginnings of the English language start to emerge from the lexical chaos. At this point, you might be tempted to think the “wang” in that carol is just one of the nonsense words, but maybe not. This neural network really does seem to have gotten it into its head that Christmas is a bit, well, ribald. Consider:

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
I wanna give it to you
Ding dong, ding dong
Christmas day

That one could be a new holiday standard, honestly. But what about this:

It’s Christmas time peetime story with my baby tonight

Or this:

The sandman and ass and all the reindeer so bright.

This “Sandman” is a strangely central figure in the neural network’s Christmas vision, even though Shane writes the word appears just once in the 240-carol dataset. If we’re reading these carols right, it’s possible the Sandman is A.I. Jesus. Take a look:

The sandman so be joyful now it was born today!
Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Or what about this one, in which the Sandman is again either some manner of yuletide savior, or maybe an anthropomorphized star?

The sandman bright before Him.
The holly bears a berry bears
And star in the snow is born today!

Shane has a ton more carols to share on her blog, as well as lots of other rundowns of her fascinating experiments with all things A.I. and neural network.

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