Do Androids Laugh at Electric Sheep? Humor "Understanding" Benchmarks from The New Yorker Caption Contest

We challenge AI models to "demonstrate understanding" of the sophisticated multimodal humor of The New Yorker Caption Contest. Concretely, we develop three carefully circumscribed tasks for which it suffices (but is not necessary) to grasp potentially complex and unexpected relationships between image and caption, and similarly complex and unexpected allusions to the wide varieties of human experience; these are the hallmarks of a New Yorker-caliber cartoon. We investigate vision-and-language models that take as input the cartoon pixels and caption directly, as well as language-only models for which we circumvent image-processing by providing textual descriptions of the image. Even with the rich multifaceted annotations we provide for the cartoon images, we identify performance gaps between high-quality machine learning models (e.g., a fine-tuned, 175B parameter language model) and humans. We publicly release our corpora including annotations describing the image's locations/entities, what's unusual about the scene, and an explanation of the joke.

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