Some of our visualizations are creative and funny. If nothing logical pops up, funny is probable the best choice. Funny visualizations are memorable, cheerful, and fun to revisit. Just like funny youtube clips! However, there is a caveat. Some of us cannot remember a joke! More reading here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Why is it so hard to tell jokes for some of us and so easy for others? Let me please ignore funny faces, buildup, and comical timing. These elements are very important on stage but less important on other occasions. What ruins the joke for most of us is the context.
We kind of remember the start and the punchline, only we do not remember how to get from the start to the punchline. The middle part of most jokes is tediously boring. Some would say because comedy is real and reality is boring. Maybe.
If you want to tell the full joke, you need to visualize not just the first and the last scene, but also all the boring scenes in the middle. These middle scenes provide context and meaning.
When the visualization is too good
My father used to process the text he read into funny, wonderful, and meaningless stories. These stories were very exciting and my father often told them. The same way.
Later I noticed that he rereads his books. He told me that he read very fast only he remembers nothing. So each time he reads is like seeing the book for the first time. He had a library of several thousand books. And he used to reread them often. One day I came to him and the library was empty. He fully started to use computerized books and threw away his entire library as he did not need it anymore!
You know the strangest thing about his book? I read the same books, and I did not remember the books themselves. I remembered my father’s stories because they were exciting and funny!
Occasionally our visualizations are great. They are funny and memorable and fun to remember. And we love to revisit them and remember every detail in the visualization. Only we fail to project THAT onto the original text…
Humor and a sticky mind
Somehow humor is sticky for our mind. We get stuck in the punchline. Maybe we obsessively revisit it. We want to tell it to the entire world. Some of the best comedians have ADHD and cannot think about anything except funny. Why?
One of the elements of a good joke is the element of surprise. You do not expect to see familiar people and objects so much out of context! The rare events capture our attention and get a special flashbulb memory status. This is the way our autobiographical memory is built. Why?
Consider or predator escaping a near death. For example, I have seen on natural geographic a big baboon attacking a leopard and the leopard running for his life. I have seen many films on the natural geographic channel, but this one I remembered. Because the prey was chasing the predator!
There are not many situations of near escape. They could quite often get deadly. So we want to learn as much as we can from those rare situations. And our brain is fine-tuned to remember them. The mind gets “sticky” and revisits those situations as visualization.
It’s funny because it’s true
Sometimes our visualizations get life without our intention. We might unintentionally generate something genius. Consider the Super Marion Brothers video game. It is total nonsense. Possibly it was inspired by drug-induced dreams. We may never know.
According to an interview with Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, the use of mushrooms in Mario was heavily inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Many people feel as though the use of mushrooms in Alice in Wonderland is an obvious allegory for drug use.
There is a lot of truth about drugs and addicts in the Super Mario video game, and this makes the game addictive and funny.
It is easy to visualize something as nonsense and get generations of scientists deciphering it. I read Alice in Wonderland with interpretations, and in some aspects, it was deeper than the Bible… Jabberwocky is nonsense yet we all understand the story in it. Because our brain is built in a certain way.
GAN and deep dreaming
Occasionally I argue that AI also has a sense of humor. In GAN one network may show a single point to another network, changing entirely the detection. I can almost feel both networks laughing. It is like one child showing another a finger and both laughing hysterically.
AI also dreams. When it learns something from a set of images, it applies these rules everywhere, generating psychedelic trippy results. Its mind is stuck in a way…
Humor and resilience
One of the best things about humor is restart. “OK, that’s far enough! Now restart the entire system!” When we laugh we kind of expel any chemicals that could have poisoned us. We do not feel pain. There is a strong energy pulse sufficient to get us out of harm’s way. It is an evolutionary mechanism of dealing with sticky situations.
Humor somehow deals with cortisol, the stress hormone. If we were frozen in a fight-or-flight scenario we are suddenly free to act creatively and differently.
And the strangest thing is: we enjoy this! Telling jokes time after time and laughing hysterically we pump the brain with oxygen, reduce stress, and live longer. Even when the joke is a bad one.
Since our brain is sort of tripping of funny, comic animals are some of the funniest subjects. There are sorts of funny animals. Some are amusingly human. Others look like they are intoxicated. And some make us think: WTF!
Think of our ancestors encountering intoxicated or sick animals. The animals will behave strangely. Maybe it will bump into a tree and fall repeatedly. Such an animal is not safe, its food is not safe, the entire environment is not safe. Expel the fumes and ventilate the brain, then get out of there fast!
We do something strangely different. These animals are recorded, and we watch these short videos time after time. Strange! There are even competitions of funny animal photos!
Then we can also use the same animals in our own visualizations – to get the brain to stick to the visualization.
Do the animals laugh?
This part is a bit trippy… Humor is not just a human quality! Animals laugh too… Usually while playing. I quote:
Many animals produce sounds during play that are unique to that pleasant social interaction; researchers consider such vocalizations to be a close analogue of human laughter. Recently, scientists investigated play vocalization to see how common it was among animals. The team identified 65 species that “laughed” while playing; most were mammals, but a few bird species demonstrated playful laughter too. This new analysis could help scientists to trace the evolutionary origins of human laughter.
When it comes to identifying play, people who study primates say, ‘You know it when you see it. One sign is that primates — our closest relatives — have a “play face” that resembles the expressions of humans who are playing’.
Scientists found that if they recorded keas’ warbling laughter and played it through a speaker, other keas would spontaneously start playing. That study demonstrated how kea laughter acts as an invitation to other keas, specifically to facilitate and to initiate play.
Laughter as an invitation to play?
When we play we are more creative, as there is very little penalty for mistakes. Carnivores cheerfully try to catch each other in a game. Males try to simulate territorial fights. Females play as if they care for children. The environment is safe and strange strategies can be simulated.
Maybe this is the reason we laugh? Possibly mammals and birds developed the skill independently of each other to practice dangerous scenarios and learn? When we need to learn, our memory should be active and sticky. So maybe this is why the memory gets “sticky” around funny visualizations, and the context quite often fades out?
Creative or logical
When we teach dogs and horses, we do not joke with them. We do not want to lose control over the situation. Our pets learn just fine without making jokes, and so do we.
Funny creative visualizations are definitely memorable, but perhaps they are too memorable. We often forget the context and the actual information we wanted to encode. Logical visualizations might be less shiny and more boring, but we tend to remember them well and in the context.
Notice that the context itself can also be funny. Dogs looking like their owners or people looking like paintings they examine in the museum can be hilarious. So maybe it is beneficial to experiment with different kinds of humor. Because it seems to me humor is an exciting and complex area of research.