Apparently, my life is not yet full enough of things to do, so this afternoon I posted on Facebook the following status:
Ask me any question you like, and I will attempt to answer, using only the lyrics from Pet Shop Boys songs
And then I waited to see what would happen next.
Initially, the questions were quite simple to answer: seeking my opinion on television, expressing dislike of one of the great electropop bands of all time, and trying to fox me with complicated riddles. Handily, "It’s a sin" covers most of those enquiries.
With time the questions became more recondite and thus more difficult. Neil Tennant is a deadpan songwriting genius, but he had not devoted much of his time to addressing disagreements between Kant and Hegel.
Well, not in the 1980s. Lamentably, I haven’t followed their later work quite so assiduously.
All I really wanted was for somebody to ask if I could repeat an Italian fashion brand three times, once with a stutter. Paninaro, everyone, Paninaro.
That question never came, but as I refreshed my knowledge of PSB lyrics and familiarised myself with their website (which helpfully has the words to every one of their songs transcribed on it) I realised I could have automated the whole process.
All I needed to do was to take all the Pet Shop Boys lyrics and load them into my database, then run an n-gram analysis to work out which phrases were most common in relation to other words, and then use the results of that to respond in the most appropriate way to every question I was asked. I’d be building a chat bot that could perform duets with Dusty Springfield.
You don’t have to say you love me, just because I care about natural language processing, basically.
Unfortunately, this realisation only struck me as I was wandering away from the office, back towards my wife and child, and as I hadn’t seem them for hours, I doubted they’d be chuffed if I sunk all my attention into battering away at database scripts when I should be paying attention to them.
Also, I was meant to go running tonight, although having left the office at stupid o’clock, I was running a bit low on energy, and if I’d tried fitting too much in, I’d probably make things worse for myself. This week I’d like to be running every day, but I also want to be getting a full night’s sleep as often as possible so I’m fresh and ready for everything the day has to throw at me. So no exercise today.
On the positive side, now I know that the formula for a successful post on Facebook is a combination of 1980s pop and wilfully obscure academic enquiries, I may be pumping out more status updates for the rest of the week.