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Google used improv rules to deal with a farting Assistant

Listen, it’s late on day two of Google I/O and we’re all getting a bit punchy here. During a late-afternoon panel on design and Assistant, Google Principal Designer Ryan Germick explained that the company used improv skills to figure out how to build out the AI’s personality — and answer some of life’s more difficult questions.

One question Assistant gets “more often than you’d expect”: “did you fart?” For one thing, farts are always funny. For another, what’s the point of having a smart assistant if you can’t blame it for your various bodily odors?

Germick explained that the company went through various iterations of answers to the fart question, starting with something along the lines of “of course I didn’t, I don’t have a body.” That, it turns out, is not a particularly satisfying answer. Instead, the company embraced the “artful dodge,” using what anyone who’s taken an introductory improv class will tell you is known as “yes and-ing.”

So go ahead and ask your Assistant if it farted and you’ll probably hear something along the lines of “you can blame me, if you want,” along with somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 additional answers.

And always remember Isaac Asimov’s unspoken fourth rule of robotics: he who smelt it, dealt it. 

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